Israel MPs note Turkish mass killings of Armenians

AFP , Tuesday 23 Apr 2013

Parliamentary discussion comes day after first round of reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey

Israel's parliament on Tuesday held talks to mark the Turkish mass killings of Armenians in 1915, even as the Jewish state and Ankara take the first steps to try to patch up ties.

"It is time that Israel recognise the massacre of the Armenians, like 27 other states have," said Zehava Galon of the opposition Meretz party who initiated the discussion.

The parliamentary discussion comes a day after a first round of reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey began in Ankara, focusing on compensation over a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The high-stakes negotiations follow a formal apology last month Israel made for the botched 2010 raid in which its troops killed nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The Israeli parliament has for years been holding hearings marking the events and in 2007 rejected a motion to recognise the Turkish mass killings of Armenians beginning in 1915 as a "genocide."

In December 2011, a parliamentary committee held a landmark public debate on recognising what the Armenians term a genocide, as recognised by more than 20 countries. Past hearings had taken place behind closed doors.

Proposals by lawmakers to hold debates on the issue had been rejected by Israeli governments over the years, when ties with Turkey were warmer.

"This is an important strategic move I fully support," Galon said on Tuesday of the reconciliation talks, "but it shouldn't affect recognising the Armenian massacre. It's not either recognising the genocide or the relations with Turkey, but both."

Knesset member Reuven Rivlin of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party stressed that ties with Turkey and reconciliation with it were important to the Jewish state.

But he warned that overlooking another people's disaster would weaken Israel's stance on the Holocaust.

"This is our moral duty as humans and as Jews," the former Knesset speaker said during the discussion.

"If we ignore another nation's disaster, we won't have the moral right to demand other nations to 'remember and not forget' our own disaster."

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen died in orchestrated killings during the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey strongly denies this, saying 300,000 Armenians and as many Turks were killed in civil conflict when the Christian Armenians, backed by Russia, rose up against the Ottomans.

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