The European Parliament backed a motion Wednesday (15 April) that calls the massacre a century ago of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a “genocide”, days after Pope Francis triggered fury in Turkey by using the same term.
MEPs stress the need for Turkey to recognise the Armenian genocide, so as to pave way for “genuine reconciliation”. Armenia and Turkey should use the centenary of the Armenian genocide to renew diplomatic relations, open the border and pave the way for economic integration, says the resolution.
Although the resolution repeated language previously adopted by the parliament in 1987, it could stoke tensions with EU candidate nation Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said even before the vote took place that he would ignore the result.
After the vote, the Turkish foreign ministry accused the European Parliament of attempting to rewrite history.
Muslim Turkey agrees that Christian Armenians were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces that began on 15 April, 1915, when large numbers of Armenians lived in the empire ruled by Istanbul, but denies that this amounted to genocide.
Armenia, some Western historians and foreign parliaments refer to the mass killings as genocide.
Voting by show of hands, European lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the motion stating that the “tragic events that took place in 1915-1917 against the Armenians in the territory of the Ottoman Empire represent a genocide”.
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian hailed the resolution as a move aimed at defending human rights.
“The Resolution contains an important message to Turkey to use the commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide to come to terms with its past, to recognise the Armenian Genocide and thus pave the way for a genuine reconciliation between Turkish and Armenian peoples,” he said in a statement.
Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic row last Sunday by calling the killings “the first genocide of the 20th century”. His remarks prompted Turkey to summon the Vatican’s ambassador to the Holy See and to recall its own.
The European Parliament sprang to the pope’s defence, commending the message the pontiff delivered at the weekend.
“In one ear, out the other”
Turkey is a candidate country to join the 28-nation EU but accession talks have dragged on for years with little progress.
Earlier, Erdo?an told a news conference that “whatever decision the European Parliament took on Armenian genocide claims would “go in one ear and out the other”.
“It is out of the question for there to be a stain, a shadow called ‘genocide’, on Turkey,” he said at Ankara airport before departing on a visit to Kazakhstan.
Last year, when he was Turkey’s prime minister, Erdo?an offered what his government said were unprecedented condolences to the grandchildren of Armenians killed during World War One.
Wednesday’s resolution said such statements were a step in the right direction, but legislators urged Turkey to go further.
In a statement after the vote, Turkey’s foreign ministry said lawmakers who backed the resolution were in partnership with “those who have nothing to do with European values and are feeding on hatred, revenge and the culture of conflict”.
Hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians died during forced removals in 1915 by the Ottoman army from what is now Eastern Turkey, but Turkey denies that the move constituted genocide.
The country's attitude vis-à-vis the bloodshed in 1915 is one of the defining aspects of modern Turkish diplomacy, with any use of the term ‘genocide’ either within Turkey or abroad swiftly denounced by Ankara.
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed in 2007 after openly saying that the events of 1915 were genocide.
- European Parliament: Armenian genocide centenary: MEPs urge Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations