Germany Plans to Recognize Armenian Massacre in 1915 as Genocide

Armenian Genocide
A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute dated 1915 purportedly shows soldiers standing over skulls of victims from the Armenian village of Sheyxalan in the Mush valley, on the Caucasus front during the First World War. A hundred years after an estimated million members of the empire’s Christian minority were forced from their homes on death marches by Turkish forces during World War I, Germany is still struggling to come to terms with its role in enabling the massacres that many European governments, including Pope Francis, call the first genocide of the twentieth century. Source: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Germany plans for the first time to officially recognize the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Turkish regime 100 years ago as genocide.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition will vote on April 24 to label the murders as genocide as defined by the United Nations in 1948. The lower house vote is on the same day as leaders meet in the Armenian capital of Yerevan to commemorate the massacre that began in April 1915.

Germany’s ruling parties plan in their resolution to “find a formulation which states the fact that a genocide took place in Turkey,” Franz Josef Jung, deputy faction leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said in a statement Monday.

Germany has been under pressure from some of its European partners to follow their example and more fully recognize the depth of the Armenian tragedy. Germany maintains that the onus is on Turkey to publicly come to terms with its past actions, as Germany did with the Holocaust. Turkey recognizes the killings, while rejecting the genocide label.

While it’s “very important” that Turks and Armenians reconcile over the killings, “such a coming to terms with the past can’t be forced on someone from abroad -- it’s a domestic issue,” Christiane Wirtz, a government spokeswoman, told reporters last week.

Merkel’s government faces a difficult balancing act in voting on the measure, while trying to not further antagonize Turkey. Germany is Turkey’s biggest trading partner in the European Union, its biggest foreign investor and home to the largest group of Turks outside the country.

Yerevan Event

France, Russia, Greece, Sweden and the Netherlands are among countries that recognize the killings as genocide and will be sending senior representatives to Yerevan on Friday. Merkel won’t attend, and instead will send a junior foreign minister in her place.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced he will be holding his own ceremony on the same day to mark the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, even though the World War I battle is normally observed on a different date.

The European Parliament will vote Wednesday on a resolution urging Turkey “to come to terms with its past” and to recognize the scale of its deed, a measure that Erdogan says he plans to ignore.

Last year, Turkey offered its first-ever condolences over mass deportations that preceded the Armenian deaths. Armenia estimates 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1923. Turkey says the figure is inflated and that killings of Armenians took place during clashes in which thousands of Turks also died.

The fate of the Armenians “exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsion and genocide that characterizes the 20th century in such a terrible way,” Jung said in his statement.

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