Turkey protests Sweden’s ‘genocide’ vote

Agence France Presse
March 12, 2010 Friday 12:15 PM GMT

Turkey protests Sweden’s ‘genocide’ vote

Ankara, March 12 2010

Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador Friday to protest after the
Swedish parliament recognized the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman
Turks as genocide, only days after a similar vote by a US
Congressional panel.

"We conveyed our unease to the Swedish side," a diplomat told AFP on
condition of anonymity after Ambassador Christer Asp met with the
ministry’s deputy undersecretary.

Ankara expects Sweden to "take serious steps to compensate" for the
decision which will "not benefit and may even harm" bilateral ties,
the diplomat added.

Asp said in televised remarks after the meeting that Thursday’s
decision was not binding for the government and vowed to maintain the
"strong, friendly" ties with Turkey.

Going against the government’s advice, the Swedish parliament voted
with a narrow margin Thursday to recognize the "genocide of Armenians"
and other Christian ethnic groups during the breakup of the Ottoman
Empire, Turkey’s predecessor.

Ankara quickly denounced the vote, recalled its ambassador from
Stockholm and cancelled next week’s visit by Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan to Sweden for a summit between the two countries.

"Our people and our government reject this decision based upon major
errors and without foundation," said a statement from Erdogan’s
office, charging that the vote was based on "domestic political
calculations" in light of elections in September this year.

In comments late Thursday, President Abdullah Gul said the Swedish
parliament’s decision had "no value in our eyes."

The Swedish vote came a week after the US House Foreign Affairs
Committee narrowly approved a non-binding resolution branding the
massacres of Armenians a genocide, prompting Ankara to recall its
ambassador.

In comments published in newspapers Friday, the Turkish ambassador to
Stockholm, Zergun Koruturk, lamented that the vote had delievered a
major blow to "excellent ties" which she said were advancing towards a
strategic partnership.

"It will not be easy to repair the damage," said Koruturk, who was
expected to return to Turkey Friday.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said after the vote that it was a
"mistake to politicise history" and vowed that the government’s
position remains unchanged.

Sweden is among the few countries which openly support Turkey’s
troubled bid to join the European Union.

The country’s top-selling broadsheet newspaper Dagens Nyheter
described the vote as a "very unfortunate decision".

"It is not up to the Swedish parliament nor to any parliamentary
assembly to vote on something which is historically true or not," said
the paper in an editorial Friday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was expected to meet Bildt
Friday or Saturday on the sidelines of an informal European gathering
in Finland, a diplomatic source said.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed in a
systematic campaign of extermination during World War I as the Ottoman
Empire fell apart.

Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label and says the toll is
grossly inflated, arguing that between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians
and at least as many Turks were killed in civil strife when Armenians
rose up for independence and sided with invading Russian forces.

But much to Ankara’s ire, parliaments in several countries have
recognized the killings as genocide.

Setting up an independent body of historians to study the events is
one of the measures foreseen under a historic deal Turkey and Armenia
signed in October to establish diplomatic relations and open their
border.

But the process has already stalled, with Ankara accusing Yerevan of
trying to change the terms of the deal and Yerevan charging that
Ankara is not committed to ratifying the accord.

burs-han/lt

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