Austrian lawmakers used the word "genocide" for the first time to describe the mass murder of Armenians in WWI. As the 100th anniversary of the killings approaches, Vienna is calling on Turkey to use the same language.
The president of the Austrian parliament, Doris Bures, invited her fellow parliamentarians to join in a moment of silence on Wednesday in memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide, which began nearly 100 years ago on April 24, 1915.
The date was "the beginning of a policy of deportation and persecution, which ended in genocide," she said.
At the same time, the heads of Austria's six represented parliamentary parties issued a joint statement acknowledging Austria's "duty to recognize and condemn the terrible events as genocide." At the time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was allied with the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Turks carried out the mass killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.
The parliamentarians also said Turkey had the duty to honestly confront "a dark and painful chapter of their history, and to recognize the crimes of the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as genocide."
The parliamentarian's actions remain purely symbolic, as nothing about Austria's official stance regarding the issue is being put to a vote.
Turkish organizations in Austria responded to the parliament's statement with a full-page ad in the newspaper Presse, saying they were "disappointed."
"No one intends to deny history," the letter read, but added that the "Armenian account" can't be presented as the sole truth, and that describing the events of 1915 as genocide has no historical or legal basis.
Turkey acknowledges the killings but has refused to refer to the mass murders as genocide. About two dozen nations officially to refer to the killings as genocide, but recently Pope Francis and the European Union used the term as the 100th anniversary of the mass murder approaches on Friday.