updated 3/5/2010 5:50:02 PM ET 2010-03-05T22:50:02

Turkey warned the Obama administration on Friday of negative diplomatic consequences if it doesn't impede a U.S. resolution branding the World War I-era killing of Armenians genocide.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey, a key Muslim ally of the U.S., would assess what measures it would take, adding that the issue was a matter of "honor" for his country.

A U.S. congressional committee approved the measure Thursday. The 23-22 vote sends the measure to the full House of Representatives, where prospects for passage are uncertain. Minutes after the vote, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the U.S.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

President Barack Obama's administration had been silent about the resolution until shortly before the vote when it said it opposed its passage. Turkey wants stronger action to block the resolution.

"The picture shows that the U.S. administration did not put enough weight behind the issue," Davutoglu told reporters. "We are seriously disturbed by the result."

'Strategic vision' missing?
"We expect the U.S. administration to, as of now, display more effective efforts. Otherwise the picture ahead will not be a positive one," he said. He complained of a lack of "strategic vision" in Washington.

The measure was approved at a time when Washington is expected to press Turkey to back sanctions against Iran to be approved in the U.N. Security Council, where Turkey currently holds a seat. Turkish cooperation also is important to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also at stake are defense contracts. Turkey is an important market for U.S. defense companies, many of which had lobbied against the measure.

"We have had good cooperation with the U.S. administration at all levels," Davutoglu said. "We would expect our contributions not to be sacrificed to domestic political games."

Davutoglu said the U.S. ambassador had been called to the Foreign Ministry for talks. The ambassador, James Jeffrey, told reporters the Obama administration was opposed to the measure being voted in the full House.

The foreign minister said Turkey was determined to press ahead with efforts to normalize ties with Armenia, but said Turkey would not be "pressured" into taking any decisions.

He added that the vote had put the ratification of agreements to normalize ties with Armenia at risk.

Last year, Turkey and Armenia agreed to normalize ties by establishing diplomatic relations and reopen their shared border, but the agreements have yet to be approved by their parliaments.

Turkey has been dragging its feet, fearful of upsetting ally Azerbaijan, which balks at any suggestion of the reopening of the border until its own dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh is settled. The region in Azerbaijan has been under Armenian control.

'Moral' victory cited
Armenian groups have sought congressional affirmation of the killings as genocide for decades and welcomed Thursday's vote.

"The problem that America faces is how to recognize the Armenian genocide without damaging its strategic alliance with Ankara. But at some point, we must adopt moral positions," Mourad Papazian, president of the western European branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, told AP Television News in Paris.

He stood in front of a monument overlooking the Seine River to victims of the killings.

"The reaction is unanimous, that is to say that the Armenian residents and the diaspora welcome the decision" by the House foreign affairs committee, he said.

Armenians abroad — estimated at 5.7 million — outnumber the 3.2 million living in Armenia itself, the smallest of the ex-Soviet republics.

In Ankara, dozens of members of a small left-wing party staged a protest near the heavily protected U.S. Embassy, shouting: "Genocide is an American lie!" Police allowed a small group to approach and lay a black wreath at its gates.

The genocide issue is one of many obstacles to Turkey's membership in the European Union. Turkey has been struggling to block similar genocide bills in parliaments across the globe.

The U.S. congressional vote came at a time when relations with the United States — strained by Turkey's refusal to allow its territory to be used for the invasion of Iraq — had recently improved. Turkey was the first Muslim country Obama visited after taking office.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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