German, EU leaders hit back as Erdogan renews attacks on Armenia vote

German and European leaders hit back Thursday at Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attacks on German lawmakers for voting to recognize the massacre of Armenians a century ago as genocide, as the Turkish president stepped up his war of words.

Erdogan on Wednesday lashed out at German Green Party chief Cem Ozdemir, who was born in Germany to Turkish parents, as being "unprincipled" for voting last week to call the World War I killings by the Ottoman Empire genocide.

Earlier the Turkish president slammed Bundestag lawmakers of Turkish origin who voted for the resolution, calling on them to take a "blood test" to check their Turkish identity. There are 11 members in the German lower house of parliament with Turkish heritage.

"I would not have thought it possible that a democratically elected president in the 21st century could combine his criticism of democratically elected representatives of the German Bundestag with doubts about their Turkish origin and refer to their blood as tainted," German Parliament President Norbert Lammert told lawmakers Thursday.

Erdogan had also suggested that German politicians of Turkish origin were aiding terrorism by supporting the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Turkey is battling in the country's mostly Kurdish south-east.

"I reject in all forms the accusation that members of this parliament are a mouthpiece of terrorists," said Lammert, who as president of the Bundestag is effectively speaker of the lower house of parliament.

In an open letter to Erdogan, European Parliament President Martin Schulz also roundly criticized the Turkish leader.

To link parliamentarians who freely express their opinion on a political issue with terrorists "represents an absolute breach of taboo," Schulz wrote.

Schulz went on to warn that the Turkish leader's comments "will not be without consequences on international relations in the long run."

In his comments on Wednesday, Erdogan did not directly name Ozdemir, who was one of the initiators of last week's Bundestag resolution.

But the Turkish president told village leaders who had gathered in Ankara that the Green Party leader was "the man who accused his own country of genocide in Germany and played the leading role in such a decision."

Erdogan added: "I wonder what he is if not unprincipled?"

Successive Turkish governments have vehemently rejected the use of the term genocide to describe the mass expulsion and killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, of which Turkey is the successor state.

Millions of Germans have Turkish heritage after a wave of so-called "guest worker" immigration into Germany during the nation's economic boom of the 1960s and 70s.

The remarks from both Lammert and Schulz echoed similar comments made this week by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Last update: Thu, 09/06/2016 - 18:16

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