Times of Israel
April 24 2015

Government set to debate resolution on World War I-era killings by
Ottoman allies of German empire

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Germany condemns the massacre a century ago of 1.5 million Armenians by
Ottoman forces as a "genocide", President Joachim Gauck said Thursday,
adding that Germany bore partial blame for the bloodletting.

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Gauck's speech at an event commemorating the centenary marked the
first time that Berlin has officially used the word "genocide" to
describe the killings during World War I, and an unusually strong
acknowledgement of the then-German empire's role in them.

"In this case we Germans must come to terms with the past regarding
our shared responsibility, possibly shared guilt, for the genocide
against the Armenians," he said at an ecumenical service in Berlin.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915
and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart and have long sought
to win international recognition of the massacres as genocide.

Modern Turkey, the successor state to the Ottomans, rejects the claim,
arguing 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.

This 1915 file photo, shows Armenian victims of the massacres in
Turkey. (photo credit: AP Photo, File)

Gauck, a Protestant pastor and former East German dissident, is the
head of state and serves as a kind of moral arbiter for the nation.

His statement was expected to draw an angry reaction from Ankara,
which has close defense and trade ties with Berlin.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier Thursday that
a decision by Austrian lawmakers this week to condemn the massacre as
"genocide" would have "unfavorable repercussions" for bilateral ties.

Ankara on Wednesday recalled its ambassador to Austria in response
to the lawmakers' condemnation.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, September 12, 2014. (Photo

In his speech at the Berlin Cathedral, Gauck said that the German
empire, then allied with the Ottomans, deployed soldiers who took
part in "planning and, in part, carrying out the deportations".

German diplomats and observers who reported back to Berlin the
atrocities they witnessed were "ignored" for fear of jeopardizing
relations with the Ottomans, he said.

The presidents of Russia and France -- two of nearly two dozen
countries to formally recognize the genocide -- are to join a handful
of world leaders attending a commemoration of the massacre in the
Armenian capital Yerevan on Friday.

Germany plans to send a junior foreign minister to the event.

While Gauck clearly labelled the mass murders a genocide, the German
government has backed a compromise resolution to be debated on Friday
in parliament.

"Their fate exemplifies the history of the mass murders, ethnic
cleansing campaigns, expulsions, indeed the genocides that marked the
20th century in such a horrible way," reads the draft text obtained
by AFP on Monday.