Germany decision on Armenian genocide deals blow to Turkey relations

Germany's parliament on Thursday recognized the Ottoman Empire's killing of ethnic Armenians and other Christians a century ago as genocide, prompting an angry reaction from Turkey, which recalled its ambassador from Germany.

The ambassador was recalled for consultations after the Bundestag made a decision that will "affect the relations between Germany and Turkey seriously," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised press conference.

German lawmakers earlier in the day almost unanimously approved a symbolic resolution that declares the Ottoman killings of Armenians during World War I genocide.

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.

Armenia welcomed Germany's decision, with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian saying the international community had been waiting for 101 years for Turkey to acknowledge the genocide.

"While Germany and Austria, as former allies of the Ottoman Empire, are today acknowledging their part of responsibility in the Armenian genocide, the authorities of Turkey are continuing to obstinately reject the undeniable fact of genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire," Nalbandian said in a statement.

Turkey views the killings as part of a wider conflict during World War I, with casualties on both sides.

"This is the wrong decision. ... There is nothing in our history that makes us ashamed," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in comments carried by state news agency Anadolu.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu echoed that sentiment, saying this is a not a way for Germany to deal with its own "dark history," referring to the Nazi genocide of Jews and other minority groups during World War II.

Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus took to Twitter following the vote to condemn its outcome as a "historic mistake."

Norbert Lammert, the president of the Bundestag, said after an hour-long parliamentary debate that the resolution - backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition and the opposition Green party - had been adopted with only vote against and one abstention.

The vote was originally scheduled for last year, but was put on ice for fear of damaging German-Turkish relations.

"Our intention is not to put Turkey in the dock, but to acknowledge that reconciliation is only possible if the facts are on the table," Volker Kauder, a close ally of Merkel, told public broadcaster ARD ahead of the vote.

The fact that Turkey is "doing great things" to support the European Union in managing the refugee crisis "does not change the facts - that unspeakable suffering was imposed on the Armenians," said Kauder, the leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats in the Bundestag.

Cem Ozdemir, a Green party lawmaker of Turkish descent and one of the main proponents of the resolution, said Thursday that the German Reich's complicity in the World War I killings meant that his country "has to acknowledge its share of the blame."

Turkey's largest opposition party, the centre-left People's Republican Party (CHP), also condemned the German resolution.

Last update: Thu, 02/06/2016 - 15:29
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