GERMAN LAWMAKERS CALL MASSACRE OF ARMENIANS 'GENOCIDE', DEFYING TURKEY

Friday April 24, 2015
07:30 PM GMT+8

German Chancellor Angela Merkel commemorates the centenary of the
massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces, during a
regular session of the German lower house of Parliament, Bundestag,
in Berlin, Germany April 24, 2015. -- Reuters picBERLIN, April 24
-- The German parliament overwhelmingly approved today a resolution
branding the mass killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman
Turkish forces a century ago as "genocide", risking a diplomatic
rupture with Ankara.

The vote marks a significant change of stance for Germany, Turkey's
biggest trade partner in the European Union and home to a large ethnic
Turkish diaspora. Unlike France and some two dozen other countries,
Berlin has long resisted using the word.

The term 'genocide' also has special resonance in Germany, which has
worked hard to come to terms with its responsibility for the murder
of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

In a parliamentary session to commemorate the 100th anniversary of
the start of the killings, all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag
lower house backed the resolution in a vote likely to infuriate
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier this week Turkey said a similar resolution adopted by Austria's
parliament would have "permanent negative effects" on its relations
with Vienna.

"What happened in the middle of the First World War in the Ottoman
Empire under the eyes of the world was a genocide," Bundestag
president Norbert Lammert said at the start of German lawmakers'
debate on the resolution.

Muslim Turkey denies that the massacres, at a time when Ottoman troops
were battling Russian forces in the east of the empire, constituted
genocide. It says there was no organised campaign to wipe out the
Armenians, who are Christians, and no evidence of any such orders
from the Ottoman authorities.

German President Joachim Gauck also used the word 'genocide' in a
speech yesterday.

Gauck, a former East German pastor with a penchant for defying
convention, also suggested Germany itself might bear some of the
blame because of its actions during World War One.

The Ottoman Empire, whose large ethnic Armenian population had
flourished for centuries, was an ally of Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany
during World War One when the massacres occurred.

Determination

Gauck's determination to use the controversial word prompted members
of parliament to overcome long-held resistance from Chancellor Angela
Merkel's government, which until Monday had steadfastly refused to
use the term.

Political analysts have attributed Berlin's previous reluctance to
use the term 'genocide' to its fear of upsetting Turkey and the 3.5
million people living in Germany who are Turkish nationals or of
Turkish origin.

There are also concerns in Germany that massacres committed in 1904 and
1905 by German troops in what is now Namibia could also be designated
genocide, leading to reparation demands.

Most Western scholars refer to the mass killings of the Ottoman
Armenians as 'genocide'. Pope Francis also used the term this month,
prompting Turkey to accuse him of inciting hatred. -- Reuters

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