Sunday

24th Mar 2019

MEPs to call for EU-wide recognition of Armenia genocide

  • Memorial events include a torchlit march to the genocide museum in Yerevan (Photo: DziDzernagapert)

The European Parliament is to urge Turkey to “come to terms with its past” on the “Armenian Genocide” 100 years after it took place.

The joint text - agreed by parliament groups on Tuesday (14 April) ahead of a vote in Brussels on Wednesday - also calls on “those EU member states that have not yet done so and EU institutions to recognise it”.

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It says Turkey should “start a genuinely transparent public debate with a view to recognising the genocide”.

It also says Turkey should “normalise relations … with Armenia”.

The statement comes as little surprise after the EU assembly first recognised the 1915 genocide in 1987.

But it’s likely to draw fire from Ankara, which vigorously defends Turkey's reputation and which is concerned that recognition could prompt reparation claims.

Turkey this week recalled its Vatican ambassador after the Pope described the killings, by the then Ottoman Empire, as “the first genocide of the 20th century”.

For his part, Selim Yenel, its EU envoy, told EUobserver on Tuesday that: “The EP is acting as prosecutor, judge, and jury without a dialogue on this issue with the parties concerned. During the events of 1915 everybody suffered, but Turkey doesn't play the blame game”.

“We’ve always looked toward the future in a positive manner and still extend our hand for reconciliation. However, this hand has been turned down at every opportunity. Such a pity”.

His “hand for reconciliation” refers to the Armenian-Turkish “protocols” of 2008.

The accord was designed to normalise relations and for Turkey to open its border with Armenia, but it fell by the wayside when Turkey tied its ratification to Armenia’s withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory which it claims from Turkey’s ally, Azerbaijan.

Solemnities

Armenia will, in Yerevan on 24 April, welcome a handful of world leaders for the solemnities.

The list includes French president Francois Hollande, Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The office of EP chief Martin Schulz said he's unlikely to go for “logistical” reasons.

The Armenian Catholic Church will mark the anniversary by canonising genocide “martyrs”. People also plan to hold a torch-lit march through Yerevan to the Genocide Memorial, on a hill overlooking the capital.

Ten EU countries - Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden - have recognised the genocide.

The US hasn’t, in part, because the White House is wary of antagonising Turkey, a strategic ally in the Middle East.

Other EU institutions are also taking a Turkish-friendly line.

The EU foreign service, in a statement this week, declined to use the word “genocide”.

It said: “It is … key that, in this spirit of reconciliation, partner countries are able to face their past through open and serene debates”. It added that a speech by the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, last year expressing “condolences” to Armenian victims is a “welcome step”.

The EU foreign service also paid tribute last week to the “Rwandan genocide” in 1994.

But its press office declined to say why Rwanda qualifies for use of the term, while Armenia doesn’t.

Terminology

A Turkish diplomat told this website that Turkey doesn’t dispute the “huge loss of life” on the Armenian side, but does “dispute the terminology”.

She noted that it has decriminalised use of the word “genocide” and that Turkish media, academics, and politicians are free to oppose Ankara’s line.

But Eduardo Lorenzo Ochoa, the head of Eufoa, a pro-Armenia NGO in Brussels, said the EU foreign service’s “welcome” of Erdogan’s speech is “like welcoming the fact someone says the Holocaust is a minor detail of WWII”.

EU parliament groups are free to add amendments to the text before Wednesday’s vote.

With Turkey also disputing the number of people it killed, the largest group, the centre-right EPP, wants the resolution to pay tribute “to the memory of the 1.5 million innocent Armenian victims”.

The second largest group, the centre-left S&D, said in its draft text the Ottomans “in a centrally planned operation, ordered and executed mass deportations and destruction of more than 1 million of the Ottoman Armenians and the erasure of their culture”.

The third largest group - the anti-federalist ECR, which let Erdogan’s AKP party join its structures in 2013 - also speaks of a “genocide” which involved “the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, 1.5 million of whom were killed”.

Feature

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The Turkish president says that a vote by the German parliament on a resolution abut the killings of Armenians in 1915 would "damage" relations between the two countries.

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