Turkey on Thursday pressured the United States to block a bill branding the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide so as to avoid damage to strategic ties between the two allies.
As a key US congressional committee prepared to vote on the symbolic bill, President Abdullah Gul called his US counterpart Barack Obama and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivered a final warning for lawmakers to vote "no".
"Turkish US ties are going through a very important phase in which they need strategic cooperation at the highest level in their history," Davutoglu said here Thursday.
"Everyone should keep in mind the comprehensive framework of Turkish-US ties and the potential they have in contributing to global and regional peace," he added.
Gul held a telephone conversation with Obama late Wednesday that focused on "issues concerning bilateral ties and regional affairs", a presidential aide told AFP.
The Hurriyet daily said Gul urged the US leader to use his influence to block the resolution, warning that its adoption would hurt ties between the two NATO allies.
The US committee will vote on the resolution Thursday and approval would send the bill to the full House for consideration.
The non-binding resolution calls on Obama to ensure that US foreign policy reflects an understanding of the "genocide" and to label the World War I killings as such in his annual statement on the issue.
"We have taken very important steps for comprehensive normalization in the Caucasus. It is necessary to avoid risking these efforts," Davutoglu said.
The minister did not say what Turkey would do if the bill were adopted, but a Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "all options are on the table", including recalling the ambassador.
In 2007, Ankara summoned its envoy back to Ankara when the committee passed a similar text. Former US president George W. Bush stopped the resolution from going to the full house, wary over reports that Ankara would block US access to a key air base essential for Iraq and Afghanistan operations.
Turkish lawmakers who went to Washington this week to lobby US congressmen said they expected a close vote this time.
"If we fail to block (the bill) at the committee, we will stop it from going to the House," one of the lawmakers, Suat Kiniklioglu, said.
Washington has traditionally condemned the 1915-1918 mass killings, but refrained from dubbing them a "genocide", wary not to strain relations with a key Muslim ally.
Obama pledged during his election campaign to recognise the massacres as genocide, but refrained from using the term in his message last year to commemorate the killings.
During a visit to Turkey in April, Obama said he retained his view that the killings amounted to genocide but stressed that reconciliation between the two neighbours was more important.
Turkey and Armenia signed a deal in October to establish diplomatic relations and open their border.
But the process has hit the rocks, with Ankara accusing Yerevan of trying to tweak the terms of the deal and Yerevan charging that Ankara is not committed on ratifying the accord.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire fell apart, a claim supported by several other countries.
Turkey rejects the genocide label and argues that 300,000-500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in what was a civil strife.
Source: AFP American Edition