Days after France passed a controversial genocide bill, an Israeli parliamentary committee debated Monday whether to recognise the Armenian genocide, a move that will likely worsen its already strained ties with Turkey.
AFP - An Israeli parliamentary committee was holding a debate on Monday on recognising genocide in Armenia, a move likely to further strain already tense relations with Turkey.
The education committee began discussing a proposal to mark April 24, the day when Turkish mass killings of Armenians started in 1915, as a memorial day for "the massacre of the Armenian people."
A similar proposal was rejected by parliament in 2007, when ties between Israel and Turkey were warm.
But relations plunged into deep crisis last year when Israeli forces killed nine Turks in a raid on a Turkish ferry, part of an activist flotilla seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
"We've been working on this for many years," Georgette Avakian of the Armenian National Committee in Jerusalem told Israeli public radio. "I hope the time has come."
In October, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and axed military ties and defence trade. Last week, Israel cancelled completion of a 2008 contract to sell Turkey aerial surveillance equipment.
A parliamentary supporter of an Israeli memorial day for Armenian genocide -- Zahava Gal-On of the left-wing Meretz party -- said the changed diplomatic climate might mean that the measure gains support this time.
"For many years, Israel's government has refused to recognise the genocide for cynical, strategic and economic reasons, connected to its ties with Turkey," she told the Haaretz daily.
"Now, given the state of relations between the countries, I can't rule out the possibility that the foreign ministry is exploiting affairs."
But Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said the issue was not a political one.
"The subject has not arisen at the Knesset because things happened between Israel and Turkey; not because we want to exploit a political situation in order to settle accounts," he told the education committee at the start of its debate.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated killings during the final years of the Ottoman Empire.
But the Turkish government strongly denies this, saying 300,000 Armenians and as many Turks were killed in civil conflict when the Christian Armenians, backed by Russia, rose up against the Ottoman Empire.
France's lower house voted last week to criminalise the denial of genocide in Armenia, prompting Turkey to suspend political and military cooperation.
Date created : 2011-12-26