Bundestag to debate 1915 Armenian massacre

20th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

20 April 2005, BERLIN - Germany's parliament will on Thursday debate a resolution on the "expulsion and massacres" of Armenians under the Ottoman Turks in 1915 as part of ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the killings.

20 April 2005

BERLIN - Germany's parliament will on Thursday debate a resolution on the "expulsion and massacres" of Armenians under the Ottoman Turks in 1915 as part of ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the killings.

The declaration says between 1.2 and 1.5 million Christian Armenians died or were killed by the Moslem Turks during 'planned' deportations during World War One.

Turkey's government rejects this version of events and says far fewer Armenians died during Ottoman deportations which it argues took place under war conditions and due to an Armenian rebellion.

But this official Turkish view is rejected by the German Bundestag resolution.

"Turkey denies up to this day that these events were planned and that the deaths during expulsion treks and massacres by the Ottoman Empire were desired," says the text supported by Germany's opposition Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) which mainly opposes Turkish European Union membership.

Nevertheless, the three-page resolution is careful not to use the word 'genocide' to describe these events.

A parliamentary official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said this was because the document was aimed at reconciliation between Armenians and Turks.

"We want to build bridges - not slam the door shut," said the official.

This approach contrasts with resolutions passed by at least 16 national parliaments, including France and the Netherlands, which explicitly define the killings as genocide.

The more cautious German approach was criticised by the Society for Threatened Peoples, a Goettingen-based NGO which serves as a consultant to the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

"Those who deny the Holocaust was genocide are threatened with prison terms in Germany," said the Society in a statement, adding: "The German parliament loses all credibility if it does not have the public courage to label the destruction of the Armenians genocide."

Under German law it is a crime to deny the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were murdered.

There are a number of reasons for caution in Berlin over the Armenians.

Germany has about 2.5 million resident Turks, compared to an Armenian minority of 40,000. Many Turks in Germany are poorly integrated and officials are nervous about divisive issues such as the Armenian past.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is a staunch backer of Turkish EU membership and the Society for Threatened Peoples cynically noted his planned visit next month to Turkey "could not have played any role in the decision" not to recognise the genocide.

Schroeder will visit Ankara and Istanbul for talks with Turkish political and business leaders on 3 and 4 May.

Turkey's ambassador to Germany, Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, denounced the Bundestag resolution and insisted there had never been an Armenian genocide.

The resolution contains "countless factual errors" and has been written "in agreement with propaganda efforts of fanatic Armenians," said Irtemcelik in an interview with Hurriyet newspaper provided by the Turkish embassy in Berlin.

"Its goal is to defame Turkish history ... and poison ties between Turkey and the European Union," said the ambassador.

Turkey is due to start membership negotiations with the EU in October but EU leaders say accession talks - if successful - will take up to 15 years.

Armenians all over the world will on 24 April mark the 90th anniversary of the start of what most international historians describe as a genocide lasting from 1915 to 1923 which left up to 1.5 million people dead.

DPA

Subject: German news

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