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Turkey gets Clinton pledge on genocide resolution

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has assured Turkey the White House opposes a congressional resolution labelling the World War One massacres of Armenians in Turkey as genocide, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Protesters shout slogans as they demonstrate in front of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara March 5, 2010. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The ministry issued the statement after a telephone call between Clinton and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday.

The United States is keen to smooth over relations with Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim member, and a key ally in trouble spots from Afghanistan to the Middle East.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in Washington after a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved a non-binding resolution on March 4 calling on President Barack Obama to refer to the killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians almost a century ago as genocide.

The full House of Representatives is due to consider the resolution, although it was unclear whether it would go to a vote or had enough support to pass.

“Secretary Clinton emphasised that the U.S. administration opposes both the decision accepted by the committee and the decision reaching the general assembly,” the statement said.

Turkey wants to be sure that Obama will not use the term genocide in an address scheduled for April 24, and has halted high profile visits by officials.

Davutoglu told Clinton the congressional committee’s resolution had negatively affected efforts to improved stability in the South Caucasus.

While Turkey and Armenia are trying to normalise relations and open their shared border, progress is complicated by hostility between Armenia and Turkey’s fellow-Muslim ally, Azerbaijan.

Clinton said U.S. officials hoped Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would attend a summit in Washington next month on nuclear disarmament, the foreign ministry statement said.

Davutoglu said Erdogan would decide in the next few days whether to attend the meeting on April 13 and 14. More than 40 world leaders are expected at the summit.

Turkey has offered to use its close ties with Iran in Tehran’s dispute with the West over its nuclear programme, but has indicated it may not support a fourth round of U.N. sanctions being prepared by the United States and other Western powers.

More than 20 countries recognise the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago as genocide. Turkey argues that both Turks and Armenians were killed during the chaos of war and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Andrew Dobbie