Cyprus on Thursday made it a crime to deny that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenian Turks a century ago.
The Cypriot parliament passed a resolution penalising denial of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, modifying existing legislation, which required prior conviction by an international court to make denial a crime.
“Today is a historic day,” speaker of parliament Yiannakis Omirou said. “It allows parliament to restore, with unanimous decisions and resolutions, historical truths.”
The island was one of the first countries worldwide in 1975 to recognise the Armenian killings as genocide. It is commemorated on April 24.
The nature and scale of the killings remain highly contentious. Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915, but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that this constituted an act of genocide – a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments.
Armenia accuses the Ottoman authorities at the time of systematically massacring large numbers of Armenians, then deporting many more, including women, children and the elderly and infirm in terrible conditions on so-called death marches.
The issue has long been a source of tension between Turkey and several Western countries, especially the United States and France, both home to large ethnic Armenian diasporas. Cyprus too has an Armenian population.