German Parliament labels Armenians' killings as genocide

AP , Thursday 2 Jun 2016

Law makers vote to recognise the Armenian genocide after a debate during the 173rd sitting of the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament, in Berlin on June 2, 2016 (AFP)

The German Parliament overwhelmingly approved a motion labeling the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as genocide, a decision that Turkey's prime minister said would "test" relations between the two countries at a sensitive time.

The resolution, which was put forward by Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition of right and left and the opposition Greens, passed Thursday with support from all the parties in Parliament. In a show of hands, there was one abstention and one vote against.

Merkel was not present with officials citing scheduling reasons. However, her spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz has made clear that the chancellor supported the motion.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said this week his country would not nix a deal with the European Union on curbing the flow of migrants to Europe over the motion, but told party officials in Ankara earlier Thursday that the vote was a "true test of friendship."

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event viewed by many scholars as the 20th century's first genocide.

Turkey denies that the killings that started in 1915 were genocide and contends the dead were victims of civil war and unrest. Ankara also insists the death toll has been inflated.

Opening Thursday's debate, Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert acknowledged that addressing historical events can be painful.

"But we have also seen that an honest and self-critical appraisal of the past does not endanger relations with other countries," he said. "In fact, it is a precondition for understanding, reconciliation and cooperation."

He said Turkey's current government is not responsible for what happened 100 years ago, "but it shares responsibility for what happens with it in the future."

Short link: