Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the United States on the heels of a vote on a resolution in the House Foreign Affairs Committee declaring the 1915 massacre of millions of Armenians a genocide, previewing the potential problems the measure could create for ties between the U.S. and Turkey.
The Obama administration moved quickly to smooth relations after the committee voted Thursday 23-22 and sent the resolution to the House floor, although it is unclear if the House will ever vote on the measure.
At a press conference Friday while traveling in Guatemala, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacted, " As I made clear yesterday in Costa Rica the Obama administration strongly opposes the resolution that was passed by only one vote in the House committee and we'll work very hard to make sure it does not go to the House floor."
The relationship with Turkey is a prickly one for President Obama and his administration as the U.S. would like Turkey to back sanctions against Iran in the U.N. The United States has a military base in Turkey used for training missions for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Turkey has cooperated in both those efforts.
Obama, who was supportive of the legislation when he was in the Senate and a candidate for President, has not been as forceful on the issue since taking office, instead asking Turkey and Armenia to focus on resolving relations between the two nations. On Thursday, Secretary of State Clinton, who also supported the legislation when she was in the Senate, urged House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) not to take a vote on the proposal.
It is estimated that around 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks during World War One. Turkey refuses to recognize the deaths as genocide saying the death toll has been inflated and the deaths are related to the war effort, not a targeted genocide.
The president called Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday and encouraged him and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to normalize relations with Armenia.
Meanwhile, other nations in the region are already expressing concern over the House resolution. Azerbaijan says the resolution will damage regional stablity and the efforts to resolve the Karbakah conflict.
Karbakah is an area that Azerbaijan and Armenia have been fighting over since the late '80's and has not been completely resolved.
The White House had no comment on Turkey recalling their Ambassador.