In a move that’s been more or less promised to send shockwaves through the German-Turkish relationship, the German Bundestag (parliament) voted on Thursday to recognize the killing of over 1 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 onward as a genocide. Deutsche Welle reports:
Germany’s Bundestag passed a resolution qualifying the Ottoman era Armenian killings as ‘genocide’. The lower house of parliament voted almost unanimously, with one vote against the motion and one abstention. House speaker Norbert Lammert spoke of a “remarkable majority.”
Remembrance of genocide is particularly potent as a political issue in Germany, where for obvious historical reasons it’s considered a national duty; several Members of the Bundestag noted that as Germany was allied with the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacres, it bore some indirect responsibility. Nevertheless, the impetus for taking this particular motion up at this particular time seems more modern than historical. As our own Damir Marusic wrote last week:
The genocide resolution certainly won’t sit well with Ankara—and that appears to be precisely its point. German leaders had considered voting on a similar resolution last year, but had backed down in order to try to keep their options open with Turkey. Merkel’s domestic antagonists are now clearly looking to upset the applecart after their Chancellor has repeatedly failed to stand up to an increasingly colicky Erdogan.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government made its displeasure with the motion clear beforehand, and vowed their would be consequences. (Turkey still denies the killings constituted a genocide.)
Merkel and other leaders tried to dodge the issue, while having it both ways (DW):
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and the leader of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, failed to attend the vote on account of other appointments. Critics have said, however, that they deliberately attempted to dodge a difficult vote. Chancellor Merkel did, however, announce after the passing of the resolution that the Bundestag decision to designate the Ottoman killings of Christian Armenians as genocide did not detract from Germany’s “amicable and strategic” relationship with Turkey.
But Ankara ain’t buying it. The Daily Hurriyet reports:
The Turkish government has described the Bundestag’s approval of the Armenian genocide bill “null and void.”
“The fact that the German Parliament approved distorted and baseless claims as genocide is a historic mistake. The German Parliament’s approval of this bill is not a decision in line with friendly relations between Turkey and Germany. This decision is null and void for Turkey,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said.[..]
Meanwhile, Turkish Ambassador to Berlin Hüseyin Avni Karslıoğlu has been recalled toAnkara for consultations over the decision.[..]
“This decision that the German Parliament has taken is actually a decision that will seriously affect Germany-Turkey relations. We will make evaluations after returning [to Turkey] about steps to be taken. Then we will take the necessary steps that we have to take,” Erdoğan told reporters in Kenya.
Prime Minister Binalı Yıldırım said Ankara could “not accept” such a decision.
Germany and Turkey may be heading for a split—one that will be loud and ugly. On the one hand, you have Erdogan’s increased megalomania: This is a man who’s filed lawsuits and protests all over Europe over semi-obscure comedians and artists saying mean things about him. On the other, you have a growing backlash in Germany against being asked to swallow abuse from an aspiring authoritarian as the price of a deal that touches on an issue (the refugees) where citizens are increasingly unhappy with their government to begin with. And then, as we wrote yesterday, the Turkish-EU deal appears to be failing: it was one thing for the German government to put up with abuse from Erdogan and poll drops at home when it seemed like the deal, however dirty, was solving their biggest domestic problem. And it’s quite another if it isn’t.
The incentives (money on one hand, a hope at stopping immigration on the other) in theory remain strong for each side to stick to the deal. But given how emotional things have become, we wouldn’t be surprised if this leads to a serious rupture.