German Chancellor Angela Merkel backs a parliamentary resolution declaring that the deaths of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a century ago should be labeled as genocide, but is unlikely to be present at the vote, her spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The chancellor joined the vast majority of parliamentary members of her conservative political bloc in supporting the resolution in a test party ballot on Tuesday, the spokeswoman said.
In addition to Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union, the resolution is also supported by the opposition Green party and, possibly, members of the hard-left Die Linke, which should ensure its passage through parliament.
But - as is the case with Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel as well as Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier - Merkel will not be present during the Bundestag vote, officials said.
Speaking on Tuesday after a phone call with Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of the potential economic, political, military and diplomatic damage to Ankara's relations with Berlin if the resolution is adopted by the Bundestag.
However, in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told German lawmakers not to be intimidated by Erdogan's threats.
"It's not fair that you cannot call the genocide of the Armenians genocide just because the head of state of another country is angry about it," Sargsyan told the German daily Bild.
More than 20 nations have so far recognized the World War I-era massacres as genocide, including Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands.
Most historians believe that up to 1.5 million Armenians died in systematic killings and deportations by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916.
But Turkey, the Ottoman successor state, argues that Armenians, Turks and people of other nationalities were victims of a civil war.
Newly elected Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the resolution "laughable" and "plucked out of thin air" in comments carried by state news agency Anadolu.
"Those incidents were the norm under the conditions of World War I in 1915, and could have happened in any society and in any country," Yildirim was quoted as saying.
The premier added that a vote in Berlin to pass the resolution "would of course damage our relations with Germany, without a doubt. And we do not want them to be damaged."
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