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Turkey Angered by Petition On White House Website

A petition on the White House website calling for Turkey to open its borders to Armenian-Syrian refugees has provoked a reaction from the Turkish Foreign Ministry as the Syrian crisis now appears linked to other issues in US-Turkey-Armenia relations.
Syrian refugees wait to cross the border to Turkey at Bab El-Hawa on the outskirts of Idlib, near the Syrian-Turkey border, January 13, 2013. Picture taken January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Abdalghne Karoof (SYRIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CONFLICT SOCIETY)

On Jan. 5, a petition appeared on the White House website calling on the government of Turkey to open its border with Armenia for refugees from Syria.

"The road from Syria to Armenia goes through Turkey, which closed its border with Armenia in 1993. It creates a big problem for Armenian refugees," the petition reads. "Thus, we are kindly asking to call Turkey to open the land border with Armenia (at least, for refugees) without any preconditions. There shouldn't be closed borders in the 21st century."

The petition is one of many posted on the White House website on a wide range of issues. "The right to petition the government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," the White House explains. "If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts and issue an official response."

This petition requires 100,000 signatures by Feb. 4 to be worthy of a White House review, and had only received 708 by the time this article was written.

Although the petition is not a declaration of US policy, and unlikely to get enough signatures to even motivate a review by the White House, the Turkish Foreign Ministry nonetheless felt the need to respond.

The ministry's statement categorically rejected any implied accusation by this petition that the closed status of the Turkey-Armenian border jeopardizes the lives of Armenian-Syrians in war-torn Syria, where the United Nations estimates more than 60,000 lives have already been lost.

"It's worth stressing that Turkey is providing shelter to more than 150,000 Syrians without any discrimination based on their religion, language, race or ethnic origin, and that a large number of Armenians fleeing Syria have already reached Armenia in a variety of ways — including passage from Turkey," the statement read.

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