The Democratic team included Anthony Lake, Obama's top foreign policy adviser and a national security adviser during former President Bill Clinton's term, and Phil Gordon, a key National Security Council official for Europe under Clinton. The Republican team included Randy Scheunemann, a top adviser to McCain, sources said. A contentious issue between Turkey and the Obama campaign is the World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan separately met with foreign policy advisers of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and presumed Republican nominee John McCain Monday as part of efforts to prepare for working with the next U.S. administration to be formed after the Nov. 4 elections.
Obama has already pledged that if elected president he would formally recognize the killings as genocide and support congressional resolutions to that end, and his promise remains in place. The Armenian National Committee of America, the largest U.S. Armenian group, last week hailed Obama's victory against Hillary Clinton to effectively win the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidential elections.
Babacan told Obama's advisers that the issue of the Armenian killings should be removed from the U.S.-Turkish agenda once and for all, one source close to the meeting said. The U.S.-Turkish relationship came to the brink of collapse last year when the U.S. House of Representatives reached a point to consider a genocide resolution. But a strong effort by President George W. Bush's Republican administration, which opposes the measure, caused the resolution to be shelved.
But many analysts warn that another genocide resolution would almost certainly come to the House agenda next year at the latest, especially if Obama becomes president. McCain is not close to the Armenian cause, and if elected president, he is expected to continue with Bush's present policy on this matter. Babacan and the Democratic and Republican teams also briefly discussed the legal closure case against Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the source said.
Turkey's chief prosecutor has been seeking the AKP's closure on grounds that it has undermined the secular regime. Party officials deny the charges. The Constitutional Court is considering the case and is expected to reach a verdict within the next few months. Other top issues taken up during Babacan's meetings included Iraq, Iran and other Middle Eastern matters, the source said. Babacan, who concluded his Washington visit with his talks with the Obama and McCain teams, last week met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and some leading senators and lawmakers.