June 16, 2005
Source: Reuters (London)
By Nick Antonovics
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's parliament condemned on Thursday the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks 90 years ago, sparking an angry protest from Ankara.
Voting shortly after the government and opposition clashed over whether Turkey should join the European Union, all main parties in the Bundestag joined in deploring what many historians say amounted to genocide.
The resolution stopped short of calling the killings genocide, a term Turkey rejects, but it will test relations between Ankara and Berlin, a staunch supporter of Turkish EU aspirations.
"This resolution is regrettable and we strongly condemn it," said the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement.
It described the resolution as one-sided and "provocative" and said it would hurt Turks' feelings. It said German lawmakers had been motivated by domestic politics and had ignored repeated warnings of the harm the resolution would do to bilateral ties.
Turkey denies the claims that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a systematic genocide between 1915 and 1923 as the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire collapsed.
It accepts hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed but says even more Turks died in a partisan conflict in which many Armenians backed invading Russian troops.
TURKEY SAYS "HUGE INJUSTICE"
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told German reporters this week that the resolution amounted to "a huge injustice toward Turkey and Turks living in Germany," the German newspaper Rheinische Post reported on Thursday.
Teaching in German schools about the "destruction" of Armenians as proposed by the resolution would create hostility against Turks among German youth, the Turkish foreign ministry statement said.
Around 2 million Turks live in Germany. A Berlin police spokesman said a demonstration was planned in front of the Armenian embassy in Berlin on Saturday.
The resolution urged Turkey to set up an independent committee of Turkish, Armenian and international historians to document what happened and to hold a conference in Istanbul -- postponed last month -- to examine the issue.
The Turkish foreign ministry said Turkey had opened its archives to historians and proposed establishment of a joint commission between Turkey and Armenia to investigate Turkish-Armenian relations during the Ottoman Empire.
The resolution also condemned the German government of the time for failing to try to stop the killings despite having "information about the organized expulsion and extermination of Armenians."
Germany was an ally of the Ottoman Empire during World War One, when the massacres took place.
"The German parliament is well aware from its own experience how hard it is for all peoples to deal with the dark side of their past," the resolution said in a reference to Germany's own Nazi regime and its murder of millions of Jews.
(Additional reporting by Gareth Jones in Ankara).