George Clooney pays respects to Armenian massacre victims on 101st anniversary | News | DW | 25.04.2016
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George Clooney pays respects to Armenian massacre victims on 101st anniversary

At a ceremony in Yerevan, actor and rights advocate George Clooney has remembered the expulsion and murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. The terminology of the massacre is still widely debated.

The 54-year-old Hollywood star laid flowers at the memorial service in the Armenian capital on Sunday, with President Serzh Sargsyan and the Armenian-French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour also attending.

A staunch campaigner for the recognition of the 1915 massacre as genocide, Clooney co-chairs the selection committee of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, which was established on behalf of the survivors.

The genocide "is a part of Armenia's history; it's also a part of the world's history - it's not the pain of one nation only," Clooney said upon his arrival in the ex-Soviet nation's capital on Saturday.

Genocide debate

As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey officially denies that the events of 1915 amounted to genocide, and has lashed out at countries that have officially recognized the term.

The official line is that ethnic Armenians represented a fifth column backed by Russia during World War I, and that the mass deportation and accompanying Armenian deaths were not premeditated or intentional - a key requirement in the legal definition of genocide.

Armenians in 1915 picture alliance/CPA Media/A. Wegner

Some 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have died in the "Great Crime" of 1915

When France formally called the displacements and killings genocide in 2011, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador and did the same thing to Austria last year. Germany, however, is still not sure whether "genocide" is officially the right term to use for the "Great Crime."

Strategic struggle

According to an agreement reached in April between the Green Party and the German government, the Bundestag is likely to take up the debate on June 2, shortly before the summer parliamentary break.

Given Germany's need for Turkey's cooperation in the ongoing refugee crisis, it is unclear how or if the vote will proceed. Should Germany formally adopt the term, Turkey could pull its ambassador from Berlin and throw the recently implemented EU migration deal into doubt.

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