Canadian Parliament recognizes Armenian genocide

Canadian Parliament recognizes Armenian genocide

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, April 21 (Reuters) – The Canadian Parliament on Wednesday
ignored long-standing government policy and angered Turkey by formally
declaring that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in

The House of Commons voted 153-68 to support a motion declaring the
events of 90 years ago as genocide, despite a plea from Foreign
Minister Bill Graham not to aggravate NATO ally Turkey.

Armenians say some 1.5 million of their people were deliberately
slaughtered by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923. Turkey denies the
charges of genocide, saying the Armenians were among the many victims
of a partisan war raging during World War One as the Ottoman Empire

Graham quickly issued a statement after the vote stressing the motion
would not alter Ottawa’s official policy, which is that while the
events of 1915 were a tragedy, they did not constitute genocide.

Our “position on this issue … has not changed. Canada has had
friendly and cooperative relations with Turkey and Armenia for many
years. The Canadian government is committed to make these
relationships even stronger in the future,” he said.

But the result looked certain to harm ties with Turkey and represented
a sound defeat for the government, which had instructed Cabinet
members to vote “no.”

Before the vote, Graham sent a letter to Liberal lawmakers saying he
was “deeply concerned that it (the motion) could have far-reaching
negative consequences” for Turkey and the region.

“We must recognize we must have good relations with our NATO colleague
in Turkey … (which) is a very important NATO ally that we work with
closely in many areas, including Afghanistan,” he told reporters.

Despite his efforts, no less than 75 Liberal legislators voted for the
resolution. In recent years, parliaments in more than a dozen
countries — including France, Russia and Switzerland — have adopted
similar motions.

Ankara has fought hard to block attempts to press for international
recognition of the events as a genocide.

“Certainly, relations with Canada will suffer as the result of
adopting such a motion,” Turkish Embassy counselor Fazli Corman told
Reuters, citing the example of Canadian companies seeking to sign
contracts in Turkey.

France’s parliament backed the Armenian case in 2001, prompting Turkey
to freeze official visits to France and temporarily block French
companies from entering lucrative defense contracts.

The U.S. Congress dropped a similar resolution in 2000 after the White
House warned it would harm U.S. security interests in the Middle East.

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa)

04/21/04 20:54 ET