German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rebuked Turkey over accusations made against German lawmakers of Turkish origin. Ankara hit out after Berlin passed a resolution declaring the 1915 Armenian massacre, "genocide."
Speaking during a joint news conference with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (pictured above, left) in Berlin on Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated comments made by her spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday, saying that lawmakers in Germany's lower house of parliament are "freely elected without exception."
"The accusations and statements which have been made by the Turkish side are incomprehensible," Merkel said.
"It was clear with the passing of the resolution that there is a difference of views between the majority of the Bundestag and the Turkish side," said Merkel, stressing that she would push for direct talks between Turkey and Armenia.
The chancellor's comments on Tuesday came just a day after German MPs with Turkish roots called on Merkel to take a stand against Ankara. Several of them received death threats for supporting the Armenian genocide resolution.
Green Party member Özcan Mutlu said that "as an MP, insults and threats have started to become normal."
"But this takes things to a new level," he said.
Turkey denies 'genocide'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first lashed out at the German parliament last week after the Bundestag - the lower house - passed a symbolic resolution which refers to the 1915 Armenian massacre under the Ottoman Empire as "genocide."
As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey officially denies that the events amounted to genocide. Ankara officially claims that ethnic Armenians represented a fifth column backed by Russia during World War I, and that the mass deportation and accompanying deaths of some 1.5 million Armenians were neither premeditated nor intentional - a key requirement in the legal definition of genocide.
After recalling the Turkish ambassador from Berlin on Thursday, Erdogan suggested that passing the resolution was hypocritical of Germany.
"First you need to answer for the Holocaust, then for the murder of 100,000 people in Namibia," Erdogan said.
Erdogan demands 'blood tests'
The Turkish president went on to launch a personal attack against the 11 German MPs with Turkish roots who backed the resolution, accusing them of supporting "terrorism" by the banned Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). Erdogan sparked yet more outrage by demanding that the 11 should take "blood tests" to see "what kind of Turks they are."
Ankara's mayor, Ibrahim Melih Gökcek, fueled the row further by later tweeting a collage of the 11 politicians, with the hashtag #TheTraitorsMustLoseTheirCitizenship, claiming that they had "stabbed us [Turkey] in the back."
The co-leader of the Greens Party and instigator of the resolution, Cem Özdemir, was among the 11 MPs targeted by Ankara. After receiving death threats from a number of Erdogan supporters, Özdemir has since been placed under police protection.
Green party co-leader Cem Özdemir has received death threats for instigating the Armenian genocide resolution
Merkel's diplomatic relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under fire on several occasions in recent months, with critics accusing her of ignoring Turkey's human rights record and worsening press freedom in order to win Ankara's cooperation in the implementation of the EU refugee deal.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the German government should make clear that it did not share parliament's view on the Armenian issue, adding that Turkey would have to suspend its deal with the EU to stem the flow of migrants to Europe if there was no agreement on granting visa-free travel to Turks.