Dutch MPs recognise Armenian ‘genocide’

Dutch MPs recognise Armenian ‘genocide’

The Dutch parliament has angered Turkey by voting overwhelmingly to recognise the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman authorities in 1915 as “genocide”. 

Ankara says many of those killed died in First World War battles.

The motion was opposed by just three MPs out of 150, further endangering bilateral ties after the Dutch barred a Turkish minister from campaigning in the Netherlands last year ahead of the contentious April 2017 referendum on presidential powers.

Since then, relations have deteriorated further and earlier this month the Dutch formally withdrew their ambassador to Turkey.

Although it will not become official Dutch policy, the vote makes the Netherlands the 14th EU member to designate the massacres as genocide.

Hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians died in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, while their empire was disintegrating.

Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren Syrian deserts where they died of starvation and thirst. Thousands were killed in massacres.

Twenty states, including France, Germany and Russia, and some international bodies such as the European Parliament recognise the killings as genocide.

Turkey goes to enormous efforts to dispute the definition although most non-Turkish scholars use the term.

“The [Dutch] government will not follow the judgment of the parliament,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told the Dutch media before the vote.

She called for “utmost caution when applying the term ‘genocide’ to past events”.

Turkey has always said it was not a planned genocide, but a consequence of war and that the Armenians were a threat because they were Russian allies.

It also says that far fewer than 1.5 million Armenians died.

“This cabinet wants to be very careful about relations with Turkey, which have been better,” Kaag said.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement referred to the 1995 Srebrenica massacres, in which victims were killed after being turned away from a Dutch-run UN “safe haven” where thousands had sought refuge from Bosnian-Serb forces towards the end of the war in Bosnia.

“Baseless decisions taken by the parliament of a country that turned a blind eye to the still painful genocide at Srebrenica have no place in history or in justice,” the statement said.

“Turkey’s attitude towards the events of 1915 is based on historical facts and legal norms.”

 

An Armenian woman kneeling beside a dead child in a field “within sight of help and safety at Aleppo”. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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