Turkey warns US over recognizing Armenian claims on 1915 incidents

Turkey’s foreign minister has warned Barack Obama's incoming administration that any U.S. recognition of Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents could derail reconciliation efforts between the two neighbors.

"It would not be very rational for a third country to take a position on this issue... A wrong step by the United States will harm the process," the Anatolia news agency quoted Ali Babacan as saying late Friday.

Turkey has "never been closer" to normalizing ties with Armenia, its eastern neighbor, and a breakthrough could be secured in 2009, the minister said, according to the AFP.

Obama, who takes office Tuesday, pledged to his Armenian-American supporters during his election campaign to recognize the 1915 incidents as "genocide".

The issue of 1915 incidents is highly sensitive for Armenia as well as Turkey. Around 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks, died in civil strife that emerged when Armenians took up arms, backed by Russia, for independence in eastern Anatolia.

However Armenia, with the backing of the diaspora, claims up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings in 1915. The issue remains unsolved as Armenia drags its feet in accepting Turkey's proposal of forming a commission to investigate the claims.

Babacan said the dispute was among the issues that Ankara and Yereven had been discussing since reconciliation efforts gathered steam in September when Turkish President Abdullah Gul paid a landmark visit to Armenia, AFP reported citing Anatolian Agency's report.

"Turkey and Armenia have never been closer to a plan on normalizing relations," Anatolia quoted Babacan as saying.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations and their border has been closed for more than a decade, as Armenia presses the international community to admit the so-called "genocide" claims instead of accepting Turkey's call to investigate the allegations, and Armenia's invasion of 20 percent territory of Azerbaijan.

The fence-mending process, he said, was boosted by similar reconciliation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey.

"The prospect of normalizing relations both between Azerbaijan and Armenia and between Turkey and Armenia in 2009 is not a dream," he added.

Gul became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia when he travelled to Yerevan in September to watch a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries on the invitation of his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian.