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Austria recognizes genocide

April 23, 2015

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Vienna after Austrian lawmakers called the 1915 Ottoman massacre of Armenians "genocide." Many scholars and two dozen governments have recognized the 1915 killings as such.

Armenian genocide
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Koerbel

Turkey announced that it would recall its ambassador to Austria after parties represented in parliament signed a declaration recognizing the massacre of Armenians a century ago as genocide.

Two days before the centenary of the April 24 beginning of the battle in which the mass killings occurred, Austrian parliamentarians held a minute's silence Wednesday for the victims of what they labeled a "genocide" for the first time. The leaders of the country's six major parties also issued a statement declaring that Austria, as a former ally of the Ottoman Empire, had a "duty to recognize and condemn these horrific events as genocide."

"The declaration by the Austrian parliament permanently scarred the friendship and relations between Turkey and Austria," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Wednesday to announce the recall of Ambassador Hasan Gogus "for consultations."

Modern Turkey emerged from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. Activists, scholars and two dozen governments call the death of 1.5 million people a genocide campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire during World War I to cleanse what eastern Turkey of Armenians.

'Discuss peace'

Turkish officials say hundreds of thousands died on both sides as Ottoman forces battled Russia for control of Anatolia. The country has been on a diplomacy blitz to keep world leaders from recognizing the genocide.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey plans to "discuss peace" when it hosts events to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of the World War I battle in Gallipoli. During ceremonies to commemorate, Erdogan said Armenia "will not be on the agenda."

Erdogan also said he had talked to Barack Obama about the issue, and told the US president that "it should be left to the historians, not the politicians," to determine whether the killings constituted genocide. Individual US legislators have used the G-word, however.

Germany's Bundestag will commemorate the victims Friday, the 100th anniversary of the day the killings began. President Joachim Gauck may use the term "genocide" at a religious service Thursday in Berlin. However, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he had asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel "to take the initiative" in persuading the Bundestag not to acknowledge the killings as genocide.

Earlier this month, Turkey recalled its ambassador from the Vatican after Pope Francis described the killings as "the first genocide of the 20th century."

mkg/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd, AP)