Bundestag Vote on Armenian Genocide: Germany-Turkey Relations in Jeopardy

Germany (SCF) – Germany’s resolution is likely to place a strain on relations between Berlin and Ankara, and follows a recent migrant deal between Turkey and the European Union, in which Germany plays a central role. Germany and Turkey are engaged in a NATO operation to stop migrant boats crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey responded by saying that the move by the German parliament has seriously damaged relations between the two countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was on a state visit to Kenya, said the decision would have a serious impact on the bilateral ties.

Erdogan said that recalling the ambassador for consultations was the“first step” and that the Turkish government would consider further steps to be taken in response to the vote.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also summoned the German chargé d’affaires in Ankara to protest the vote as the ambassador was out of town. The Turkish government has already recalled its ambassador to Germany.

Ankara has long rejected the term genocide, saying that thousands of people, many of them Turks, died in the civil war that destroyed the Ottoman Empire. It also says that the estimates of the number of deaths have been exaggerated.

Armenian Genociderecognitionrefers to the formal acceptance that the systematic massacres and forced deportation of Armenians committed by the Ottoman Empire, and subsequently the Turkish Republic from 1915 to 1923, constituted genocide. Most of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenians were displaced, deported or placed in concentration camps, ostensibly for rebelling against the Ottomans and siding with Russia during the First World War. This affected up to 1.5 million Armenians. The overwhelming majority of historians as well as academic institutions on Holocaust and Genocide Studies recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Twenty-nine countries, including Russia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Canada, as well as 44 states of the United States of America, have recognized the tragic events as genocide. The list includes 11 of the European Union’s 28 members. The governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan аre the only ones that directly deny the historical factuality of the tragic events.

In 1985, the United NationsSub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities received a report from Special Rapporteur and Sub-Commission member Benjamin Whitaker (United Kingdom) titled “Revised and Updated Report on the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (the Whitaker Report), in which the Ottoman massacre of Armenians during the World War I was cited as meeting the criteria for the UN definition of genocide.

In 1997 the International Association of Genocide Scholars(IAGS) passed a resolution unanimously recognizing Ottoman massacres of Armenians as genocide.

Last April, the European Parliament backed a motion that calls the massacre a century ago of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces genocide, days after Pope Francis’ message using the same term triggered an angry reaction in Turkey.

US President Obama has stopped short of using the word – most recently in a statement marking Armenian Remembrance Day on April 24, 2016.

Image Source: Pixabay

Image Source: Pixabay

Germany is the EU leader, so the big question is what this all means for the EU-Turkey migrants deal struck in March. Will the parliament’s decision scupper it? Under the agreement, Turkey arranged to take back migrants arriving on Greek islands, in return for EU aid and a pledge to give Turks visa-free travel to most of Europe. Germany accepted 1.1 million migrants last year – by far the highest influx in the EU.

The EU-Turley relationship had already been at a low ebb before the German parliament’s vote as a result of the European Parliament’s decision to delay its discussion of the visa liberalization process for Turkish citizens for as long as Turkey fails to fulfil its benchmarks. The vote took place on May 12. Back then, President Erdogan made clear that there would be no changes related to the anti-terror law provisions while the army is battling Kurdish militants in the southeast. Turkey threatened to suspend all of its agreements with the European Union.

Then the Turkish President said the Turkish parliament would block the deal with the EU on migrants if Ankara did not gain visa-free access to the bloc – a key demand by Turkey in the March agreement.

The West-Turkey relationship is greatly complicated by Turkey’s poor human rights record. For instance, the 2015 EU progress report said there had been “serious backsliding” on freedom of expression and the judiciary had been undermined.

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The German parliament’s decision has put into jeopardy the bilateral ties and EU-Turkey relationship which had already been threatened by other factors. It also came at the time the US-Turkey relationship has greatly deteriorated.

Turkey has also spoiled its relations with Russia.

Just a few years ago, Turkey was heralded as one of the region’s rising powers. Sticking to the principle of “zero problems with the neighbors”, Turkey aimed to both improve relations with its neighborhood and slowly emerge as the dominant regional power. This policy lies in doldrums today. Turkey’s relations with almost all of its neighbors have soured. Tensions with the United States, the European Union, and Russia have all dramatically increased. The ripple effects from Syria have put Turkey at odds with Iran.

The crux of the matter is this: Turkish foreign policy is no longer about Turkey but about Erdogan. His authoritarian rule makes Turkey’s foreign policy the product of his whims. The country is clearly moving in the wrong direction. The deterioration of Germany-Turkey relationship is just another example to confirm the fact.

 

This report prepared by Andrei Akulov for Strategic CUlture Foundation.