Foreign Affairs

Ambassador Sensoy’s ‘Exit Interview’

In what was apparently his last interview before heading back to Ankara for consultations with his government, the Turkish ambassador to the United States spoke to HUMAN EVENTS about the vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday in favor of a controversial resolution condemning Turkish killings of Armenians in 1915. 

Less than twenty-four hours after the 27-to-21 vote in favor of the symbolic-but-politically incendiary resolution, Ambassador Nabi Sensoy was recalled to Turkey for consultation with his government.  The recall of an ambassador, which is almost always to protest an action by the country in which he is an envoy, is rare and, in the case of Turkey and the United States, dramatic and unprecedented.

“I don’t really remember that this occurred in a long time in our relationship,” Sensoy told HUMAN EVENTS’ Editor Jed Babbin and me, “It’s an extraordinary indication that Turkey is very much disappointed in the way things happened yesterday.”  Turkey — a major U.S. ally in the war on terror and in NATO — had voiced strong opposition to the proposed resolution, as did President Bush in an appearance on the South Lawn of the White House prior to the vote by the House panel.

As to what response Turkey might take — possibly closing down a U.S. Air Force base or cutting back on its role in the war on terror — Sensoy told us: “You can appreciate that I’m not in a position to prejudge what the government might decide to do or what the parliament might decide to do. So it will be quite impossible for me to speculate on that.

“But the fact I’m being recalled for consultation is the first indication of that.” He emphasized the significance of his recall, pointing out that “this is a message, of course, we use in diplomatic life.”

“It is very unusual,” he said, underscoring the unprecedented nature of his recall.

Turkey’s man in Washington told us that he would make it clear to his government “that the Bush Administration and President Bush himself were opposed to it, that he made this clear on various occasions.” 

He contrasted the attitude of the President with that of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership in the House, with whom he spoke two days ago.  In his words, “She made it very clear that if it does pass the stage of the committee, she is going to bring it to the [House] floor.”

As to why Pelosi is placing so much emphasis on a resolution about something that occurred more than ninety years ago, Sensoy said “She said, I think, to the press, about the timing…this was in the cards for a long time.”

Sensoy said “there was no relation” between the issue and Turkey’s support of the U.S. action in Iraq, that “she has strong opinions about this,” and “when she came to the position of speaker, it seems she promised to pass this resolution.  She simply seemed to be living up to her promise.”

The ambassador warmly recalled Turkey’s long-standing relationship with the U.S.  and “we can’t take each other for granted. . .We have to show utmost care for the continuation of that wonderful relationship we have.”

However, he quickly added, “anything that will disrupt that, or constitute a setback, is somethingwe have to think about.  And this is surely one of those things that will constitute a setback.” 


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