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Armenia urges Germany to stay firm

June 1, 2016

Armenia's president has urged German politicians to brand deaths in 1915 Ottoman Turkey as "genocide" and not be intimidated by Ankara. Turkey's president and prime minister have both spoken out against the wording.

Völkermord an den Armeniern
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia's president, told Germany's daily newspaper Bild on Wednesday that he was sure that German lawmakers would adopt the wording submitted in a motion from Germany's opposition Greens.

The draft resolution on Thursday's agenda of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, contains the word "genocide," despite warnings by Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, followed by new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Wednesday.

Deutschland Sersch Sargsjan PK mit Angela Merkel im Bundeskanzleramt
Sargsjan visited Merkel in AprilImage: Reuters/H. Hanschke

Yildirim said the deaths were the result of "ordinary" events during war conditions.

Turkey and Armenia have long been estranged over the World War One massacre. Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1916. Ankara argues that roughly half a million died in civil strife with Ottoman rulers.

More than 20 nations, including France and Russia, have already recognized the mass deaths as genocide, albeit prompting diplomatic tension with Turkey.

Don't allow 'intimidation'

"I am sure: the politicians in the Bundestag see it the same way and will not allow themselves to be intimidated," Sargsyan said, referring to the draft.

Changing the wording "just because that makes the head of state of another country angry" would not be fair, nor prudent long-term, said Sargsyan.

Erdogan, who telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, told a news conference that the Greens' resolution, if adopted by the Bundestag, would damage ties between Ankara and Berlin.

Türkei Binali Yildirim stellt neues Kabinett vor
Yildirim labels the resolution as 'absurd'Image: picture-alliance/AA/R. Aydogan

'Absurd' formulation

Reiterating that stance on Wednesday, Yildirim described as "absurd" Thursday's pending Bundestag motion, which also has support from Merkel's conservative bloc and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

"History should be left to historians," Yildirim told journalists in Ankara.

The Greens' draft resolution entitled "Remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in 1915 and 1916" carries the contested word throughout the text.

The pending Thursday vote collides with the bid by Merkel and the EU as a whole to get Turkey to implement a complex deal to exchange migrants with Europe.

Germany has extensive ties with Turkey, including 3 million residents of Turkish origin, dating back to a "guest worker" scheme in the 1960s and 70s.

ipj/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)