By Humeyra Pamuk
Turkey told Austria yesterday Wednesday that an Austrian parliamentary declaration describing the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as ‘genocide’ would permanently damage the two countries’ relations.
“This declaration….has caused outrage for us,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We reject this biased attitude of the Austrian parliament, trying to lecture others on history, which has no room in today’s world.
“It is clear that this declaration…will have permanent negative effects on Turkey-Austria relations.”
The ministry said it had recalled its ambassador from Vienna for consultations over the declaration, one of a number by foreign institutions and parliaments as the 100th anniversary of the killings approached.
Muslim Turkey accepts that Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces during World War One, but denies there was any systematic attack on civilians amounting to genocide. The events are a highly sensitive issue in Turkey.
Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said he was ready to normalise relations with Turkey, two months after he withdrew peace accords from parliament. “It takes two to tango and it does not only depend on us,” he told foreign journalists.
The six parties in Austria’s parliament issued a joint declaration calling the massacre, in which around 1.5 million Armenians were killed, a genocide. It also held a minute of silence commemorating the Armenian victims.
“It is our duty to acknowledge and condemn these terrible events as genocide because of our historical responsibility — the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was an ally of the Ottoman Empire in the first world war,” the parties said. “It is also Turkey’s duty to face honestly dark and painful chapters of its history.”
Around 268,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, according to government figures, of which nearly 115,000 are Turkish citizens.
Armenia, most Western scholars and several foreign legislatures refer to the mass killings as genocide.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he did not expect U.S. President Barack Obama to use the word “genocide” in reference to the killings.
“I would not want Obama to use the word ‘genocide’, and I would not expect such a thing,” Erdogan told a joint press conference with Iraqi President Fuad Masum.
Erdogan has expressed condolences for the loss of Armenian life during World War One, but refuses to call the mass killings a genocide.
Germany’s parliament is set to adopt a motion using the word genocide on Friday. Earlier this month, Pope Francis also called the massacres a genocide, prompting Turkey to summon the Vatican’s envoy and recall its own.