Turkey recalls envoys over Armenian genocide

CTV.ca News Staff
05/08/2006

Turkey has recalled its envoys to Canada and France in protest of a decision
by both countries to recognize the massacres of hundreds of thousands of
Armenians during the early 20th century as genocide.
Osman Korutuk, Turkey's ambassador to France, and Aydemir Erman, the
ambassador in Ottawa, will be recalled "for a short time for consultations
over the latest developments about the baseless allegations of Armenian
genocide," in the two countries, said Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesman
Namik Tan.
They will return to their posts following the consultations, he added.
The move comes amid mounting international pressure for Ankara to recognize
the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during 1915 and 1923, as
genocide
The trial came at a particularly sensitive time for the nation, which
recently joined EU membership talks and continues to draw criticism for
human rights and laws that stifle freedom of speech.
The European Union has said Turkey's bid to seek membership could be
hindered by the claims of genocide.
Both the International Center for Transitional Justice and the Association
of Genocide Scholars have recognized the massacre as genocide, as has the
United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection
of Minorities.
In 1985, the UN agency listed cases of genocide in the 20th century, among
those "the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916."
But Turkey has long upheld a position of denial, saying the mass killings
were not a systemic genocide, but part of broader ethnic clashes as
Armenians sided with Russia during the First World War.
Turkey recently criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper after he said his
government continued to recognize motions adopted by the Canadian senate and
parliament acknowledging that the genocide took place.
Canada recognized the genocide in a 2004 private member's bill in the House
of Commons.
Turkey has also recently warned France not to pass a draft law which would
make denial of the Armenian genocide a crime subject to a one-year jail term
and a 45,000-euro (More than $63,000 Cdn) fine.
When French legislators formally recognized the Armenian genocide in 2001,
Turkey cancelled millions of dollars worth of defence contracts.
The Turkish news media have also speculated that Canadian and French
companies would be barred from bidding on the construction of a planned
nuclear power plant which Turkey hopes to build in the Black Sea coastal
town of Sinop.
Several other countries, including Argentina, Poland, and Russia, have
declared the killings a genocide, and there is strong pressure from
Armenians worldwide for the U.S. Congress to recognize the massacres as
genocide as well.
In the past few years, a few lone Turkish voices have joined international
critics in condemnation of Ankara's position.
The country's best-known and internationally acclaimed novelist Orhan Pamuk
went on trial on charges of insulting his country's national character after
he told a Swiss newspaper that Turkey was unwilling to deal with two of the
most painful episodes in its recent history: the massacre of Armenians and
recent guerrilla fighting in Turkey's overwhelmingly Kurdish southeast.
In January, a Turkish court dropped those criminal charges against Pamuk,
who is an often-mentioned candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, but
the nationalist lawyer who pushed for the trial has said he would appeal the
court decision.