Turkey slams Parliament’s genocide vote

The Globe and Mail, Canada
April 22 2004

Turkey slams Parliament’s genocide vote

Ankara – Turkey on Thursday condemned a decision by Canadian
legislators to recognize as genocide the mass killing of Armenians
during the First World War, accusing Canadian politicians of being
`narrow minded.’

Canada’s Parliament on Wednesday backed a resolution condemning the
actions of Ottoman Turkish forces eight decades ago.

Government members were discouraged from voting for the motion, which
was adopted 153-68 in the House of Commons. Prime Minister Paul
Martin was absent during the vote.

The motion read: `… this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide
of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity.’

In a written statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Turkey
strongly condemned the Canadian Parliament’s decision and accused
Canadian legislators of blindly `following those with marginal

`Some narrow minded Canadian politicians were not able to understand
that such decisions based on … prejudiced information, will awaken
feelings of hatred among people of different [ethnic] roots and
disturb social harmony,’ the statement said.

It said it was not up to parliaments to `reach conclusions over
controversial periods in history’ and insisted that the vote would
not benefit Armenians in Canada or Armenia.

Canada is the 16th country to label the killings as genocide, a step
already taken by Switzerland, France, Argentina and Russia, as well
as 11 U.S. state governments.

Armenians say a 1915-1923 campaign to force them out of eastern
Turkey amounted to a genocide and some 1.5 million people were
killed. The Turkish government rejects the charge of genocide as
unfounded and says that while 600,000 Armenians died, 2.5 million
Muslims perished in a period of civil unrest.

In 2001, Turkey cancelled millions of dollars worth of defence deals
with French companies after legislators in France recognized the

The statement did not say if Turkey planned similar sanctions but
said Canadian politicians would `bear the responsibility for any
negative developments the decision will bring.’

The Canadian vote split the ruling Liberal party between backbenchers
and cabinet ministers. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham
said the Turkish government had warned that recognizing the genocide
could have economic consequences and that he wanted to maintain good
relations with Turkey.

On Thursday, the Canadian Embassy released a statement in an attempt
to distance the government from Wednesday’s vote.

`Private member’s motions are not binding on the government of
Canada,’ the statement read.