Turkey recalls ambassador after Germany recognises Armenian genocide

Odd Andersen, AFP. Lawmakers vote to recognise the Armenian genocide after a debate during the 173rd sitting of the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament, in Berlin on June 2, 2016.

Germany passed a resolution on Thursday recognising the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, prompting an angry Turkey to recall its ambassador to Berlin.


Only one MP voted against and another abstained, as parliament approved overwhelmingly by a show of hands the resolution entitled, "Remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in 1915 and 1916".

"We have recalled our ambassador to Germany (Huseyin Avni Karslioglu) for consultations," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was quoted as saying by Anatolia shortly after the vote was held.

Turkey had previously said that German resolution could seriously damage ties between the two countries. The adoption of the resolution comes at a particularly awkward time, as Germany and the European Union need Turkey to help stem a record influx of migrants even as tensions are rising between both sides over human rights and other issues.

Armenia has long sought international recognition of the genocide, but Ankara rejects the use of the term to describe the World War I-era killings and argues that it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died.

Heaping on pressure ahead of the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned: "If (Germany) falls into such a game, that would harm our future ties – the diplomatic, economic, political, commercial and military ties between the two countries."

"I believe all of these would be reconsidered," he said, adding that he had also telephoned Chancellor Angela Merkel over the text.

Yildirim added his voice to the chorus of disapproval from Ankara, saying on Thursday that the vote would be a “test of the friendship” between the two allies.

“Some nations that we consider friends, when they are experiencing trouble in domestic policy attempt to divert attention from it," he said at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). "This resolution is an example of that."

Nevertheless, Merkel backs the resolution, her spokeswoman said, even though the German leader did not attend the Bundestag vote Thursday due to other official engagements.

Armenia and Turkey have been at loggerheads over the massacre.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart.

But modern Turkey, the successor state to the Ottomans, says that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

More than 20 nations, including France and Russia, have recognised the Armenian genocide, but Germany was not among them until today.

'Wrong path?'

In direct reference to the atrocities against the Armenians, the resolution says: "Their fate exemplifies the mass exterminations, the ethnic cleansing, the expulsions and indeed the genocides that marked the 20th century in such a terrible way."

It also states that the "German Empire bears partial responsibility for the events," a point that German President Joachim Gauck also made last year during commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the killings.

Germany was then allied with the Ottomans, and it deployed soldiers who participated in the deportations of Armenians, said Gauck.

The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, as it has special ties with Ankara not least due to its three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population which settled following a massive "guest worker" programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the run-up to the vote, Turkish groups organised protests and sent letters to lawmakers to get them to oppose the resolution.

Kurds in Germany launched a counter-campaign, flooding Bundestag lawmakers with emails urging them to withstand Turkish pressure.

Armenia's President Serge Sarkissian also weighed in on the eve of the vote, urging German MPs to stand firm.

"It would not be fair to not call the genocide of Armenians genocide just because that makes the head of state of another country angry," he told Bild daily in an interview.

"I am sure that Bundestag politicians see it this way too and will not be intimidated," he added.

Yet the vote is also controversial within the coalition and political parties.

The German government's top official in charge of integration, Aydan Oezoguz, warned that it is the "wrong path" to take.

"Those who think that such a move would lead automatically to a rehabilitation in Turkey are wrong. Through this vote, that aim would be pushed further away."

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who a year ago rejected Gauck's use of the word "genocide", said Tuesday he hoped the Bundestag resolution would not derail efforts to reconcile Turkey and Armenia.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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