Turkey has long opposed the international recognition of the Armenian genocide and the German parliament’s plans to finally grant it could spell trouble for Berlin’s relations with Ankara. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.
In addition to the other factors testing Berlin-Ankara relations, namely visa liberalisation and the refugee agreement, the issue of the Armenian genocide is exacerbating the situation.
Turkish observers predict a strong reaction from Ankara if the Bundestag votes as expected and decides to formally recognise the expulsion and murder of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Turkish former Minister of EU Affairs Beril Dedeoğlu told EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel that she expects Chancellor Angela Merkel to be weakened politically when it comes to dealing with Turkey as a result.
Turkey has long used diplomatic pressure to hold back the calls for the Armenian genocide, which took place during the First World War, to be internationally recognised.
Ankara has instead argued that the death of several hundred thousand members of the Armenian and other non-Muslim minorities between 1915 and 1917 was a tragedy, but did not constitute genocide. Armenian and the majority of international researchers call the event genocide and more than 20 countries formally recognise it as such.
In Germany, the ruling coalition of the CDU, CSU and SPD, as well as the Greens, support the resolution. Turkey’s ambassador in Berlin, Hüseyin Karslıoğlu asked in a Rheinische Post interview how Germany would contribute to reconciling Turks and Armenians once the motion was passed.
In Turkey itself there is major opposition and an association committed to opposing recognition of the genocide has warned that relations between the two countries could be damaged. In an open letter, it claimed that the Turkish nation is following the developments “with concern”.
It also added that the adoption of the resolution would be “a historic mistake” and could put pressure on Berlin and Ankara’s ties at a time when both countries need to work closely together to tackle the refugee crisis.
The organisation also called upon Turkish people to send letters of protest to German political parties and provided their addresses on its website.
Former minister Dedeoğlu is also expecting cracks to appear in the countries’ relationship. Not in the form of economic sanctions, but symbolic protests, she told Der Tagesspiegel in Istanbul.
German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) also told Der Tagesspiegel that, “I hope that the German-Turkish relationship will not be burdened by the resolution and we can continue to work well together.”
Germany also hopes to keep looking for reconciliation and understanding between Turks and Armenians. Steinmeier cited cross-border projects underway that are intended to bring the two people closer together.
Five years ago, Turkey recalled its French ambassador after its national assembly passed a law criminalising the denial of the genocide. Last year, Ankara recalled its representative to the Vatican, after Pope Francis called the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century”.