BERLIN (AA) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed reservations Tuesday about a controversial parliamentary motion calling the mass deportation of Armenians in 1915 a “genocide”.
Speaking to international reporters in Berlin, Steinmeier raised concerns that reducing the debate on the Armenian tragedy to the use of the “genocide” label might block reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia.
“I have always said that dealing with these historical facts after 100 years is something not only understandable, but also necessary,” Steinmeier said at an event organized by the Foreign Press Association.
“But it is not so simple, and is problematic when one reduces the complex historical facts to a single term,” he added.
Germany’s parliament is set to vote Thursday on a controversial resolution submitted by the parliamentary groups of the ruling Christian Democrats, its coalition partner Social Democrats, and the opposition Green Party.
The resolution accuses the Ottoman government of 1915 of carrying out systematic genocide against Armenians, as well as other Christian minorities.
Turkey denies the alleged genocide, but acknowledges that there were casualties on both sides during the events taking place during World War I.
Steinmeier underlined that it is important for Turkey and its neighbor Armenia to come to terms with history, to overcome their differences and normalize relations.
He expressed regret for the failure of various initiatives in recent years towards this goal, and said the German parliament’s initiative might also not help reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.
“I hope that this [the resolution] would not block what is necessary and what could be a way forward to put an end to the current situation where we have no communication between Armenia and Turkey,” he said.
Despite his personal reservations about the resolution, Steinmeier said his party group recently decided to vote for it, after a debate where Social Democratic lawmakers expressed different views on the issue.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government has not actively supported the controversial resolution, but also has not tried to block it in parliament.
Merkel and her coalition government have recently faced widespread criticism from the media and opposition parties for their close cooperation with Turkey to address the refugee crisis.
Critics argue that Merkel made Germany dependent on Turkey, and was giving into pressure from Ankara on many foreign policy issues, while shying away from criticizing human rights shortcomings.
Many lawmakers from the ruling parties back the resolution to demonstrate to the public that they are not giving into pressure from Ankara
If approved Thursday, the resolution would be the first one by a German parliament clearly calling the Armenian tragedy of 1915 a “genocide”.
Germany’s 3 million strong ethnic Turkish community has strongly criticized the motion as being one-sided and based on anti-Turkish sentiment.
Thousands of Turkish immigrants are expected to rally in Berlin on Wednesday to call on the lawmakers to stop the controversial initiative.
The rally is being organized by the recently formed Turkish-German Solidarity Platform, an umbrella group of more than a dozen Turkish-German NGOs.
The NGOs sharply criticized the resolution in a press release Sunday, charging that it ignores historical facts and different legal views on the genocide claims, while vehemently backing the Armenian theses.
“Germany’s parliament has no authority to act like a judicial organ and accuse the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed,” the statement said.
The deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 occurred after some sided with the invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as “genocide” and describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia that includes international experts in order to tackle the issue in a scientific manner.