Germany said Friday that a parliamentary resolution passed in May that declared the mass killing of Armenians a genocide is "not legally binding," in what has been interpreted as an attempt to mitigate a diplomatic row with Turkey.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert rowed back from earlier indications that the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel was planning to disavow the resolution in a concession to Ankara, which vehemently rejects that the killings in 1915-16 constitute genocide.
Germany is supporting the US-led military campaign against the Islamic State from Turkey's Incirlik air base. The controversial Bundestag vote prompted Ankara to block German lawmakers from visiting the base, a decision that Berlin is hoping to reverse.
"The German Bundestag has every right and the freedom to speak out on political issues," but "not every resolution is legally binding," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said earlier on Friday.
The comments from the government have already generated criticism from within Merkel's grand coalition, which joins her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
"Though I am not a lawmaker in the German Bundestag, I stand by this decision as a member of the German government - no one in the government should waver on this," Family Minister Manuela Schwesig from the SPD told the N24 broadcaster on Friday.
The chancellor has remained largely neutral on Turkey's foreign policy and has failed to explicitly condemn a sweeping purge of suspected supporters of the July 15-16 military coup attempt in the country.
Merkel seems undeterred in her attempts to maintain Turkey as a partner in ending irregular migration to Europe.
Officials in her government argue that the refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey was and continues to be instrumental in stemming the flow of people from Turkey to the Greek islands.
In May, the German parliament unanimously voted to declare the massacre of about 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a genocide.
Turkey, the Ottoman Empire's successor state, accepts that many Armenians were killed during the conflict, but vehemently objects to the word "genocide."