1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Expelled Armenians
Image: picture alliance/CPA Media/A. Wegner

Steinmeier 'skeptical' over Armenian massacre term

May 16, 2016

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has expressed his concerns over the plans to change the terminology used to describe the Armenian massacre. Turkey rejects that the events of 1915 amount to genocide.


The foreign minister's comments on Monday came ahead of the Bundestag's vote on June 2, on terminology used to describe the killings of between 800,000 and 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

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 recognize the events as "genocide," Turkey could pull its ambassador from Berlin and throw the recently implemented EU migration deal into doubt.

'Highly sensitive process'

Speaking to the German newspaper "Tagesspiegel" on Monday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he hoped that German-Turkish relations would not be encumbered by the Bundestag's decision next month.

Having hoped to encourage Turks and Armenians to "come to terms with the past together and develop a rapprochement," Steinmeier admitted, however, that it was not an easy task, given the sensitivity on both sides in dealing with the history.

"I think it unwise to jeopardize this highly sensitive process from the outside," Steinmeier warned of the impending decree. The foreign minister said that even if the Bundestag reached a decision on the term used to describe the events, it would not solve the century-long debate between Yerevan and Ankara.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is concerned about the outcome of next month's voteImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Pilick

Ankara denies 'genocide'

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

Turkey's 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.

When France formally categorized the displacements and killings as "genocide" in 2011, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador and did the same thing to Austria last year.

Steinmeier already expressed doubts a year ago about the debated reclassification. When asked whether he would support the resolution next month, the foreign minister said that the Social Democrats (SPD) would be united in their vote.

Turkey/Armenia: A life spent in hiding

ksb/msh (AFP, dpa, KNA)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section Related topics