Turkey on Thursday ordered its ambassador to the US to return to Ankara in protest against a US Congress vote to declare the killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 a genocide.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman announced that Ambasaador Nabi Sensoy will return Turkey and stay in the country for about one week or 10 days for consultations over the US genocide vote, according to the semi-official Anatolia news agency.
"We are not withdrawing our ambassador. We have asked him to come to Turkey for consultations," stressed Bilman.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives approved a resolution by 27 votes to 21 votes to label the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as an act of genocide.
The resolution drew immediately Turkish government's condemnation, though it would have no binding effect on the US foreign policy.
"Our government regrets and condemns this decision. It is unacceptable that the Turkish nation has been accused of something that never happened in the past," the Turkish government said in a statement released by the foreign ministry.
"The committee's approval of this resolution was an irresponsible move, which at a greatly sensitive time will make relations with a friend and ally, and a strategic partnership nurtured over generations, more difficult," the Turkish authorities said in the statement.
Armenians say more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a systematic genocide under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
But Turkey insists the Armenians were victims of widespread chaos and governmental breakdown as the 600-year-old empire collapsed in the years before 1923 when the modern Turkey was founded.
Although the US leadership has warned against the pass of the resolution, the US lawmakers gave their nod to the bill.
US President George W. Bush on Wednesday urged Congress not to pass the bill, saying that it would do "great harm" to US relations with Turkey, which in Bush's word as "a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates had also denounced the measure, saying "the passage of this resolution at this time would be very problematic for everything we are trying to do in the Middle East."
Some 70 percent of US air cargo headed for Iraq goes through Turkey's airspace, as does about a third of the fuel used by the US military in Iraq, according to Gates.
(Xinhua News Agency October 12, 2007)