Berlin ‘plans concession on Bundestag’s Armenia genocide resolution,’ report says

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Germany’s government has plans to distance itself from a resolution recognizing the historic Ottoman slaughter of Armenians as genocide, a magazine report says. Berlin reportedly hopes the move might appease Ankara.

The German news magazine “Der Spiegel” reported on Friday that Berlin planned a gesture to appease Turkish government anger over the Bundestag’s Armenia resolution.

By doing so, the report said, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government hoped to resolve a dispute that has seen German parliamentarians barred from visiting Bundeswehr troops stationed at the Incirlik airbase in eastern Turkey.

“Der Spiegel” reported that a deal had been agreed between the German Foreign Office and Merkel’s Chancellery that would see the government directly distance itself from the Armenia resolution.

Germany’s lower house backed a resolution in early June that explicitly declared the ethnic slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman regime during World War I to have been a genocide.

In response, Ankara blocked German parliamentarians from visiting German troops stations at Incirlik, where the Bundeswehr is engaged in operations against “Islamic State” (IS). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the vote, recalled his ambassador to Berlin for consultations and threatened further action.

Following the report, however, the head of Merkel’s CDU party in parliament said the chancellor would not distance herself from the resolution. Volker Kauder told a committee meeting on Friday that she had called him personally to make it known that she was in favor the resolution.

Diplomatic hot potato

Germany’s Foreign Ministry has sought to resolve the dispute in recent weeks, with officials reportedly being told that Ankara wanted the German government to distance itself from the legislature’s vote. According to “Der Spiegel,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert would reiterate that the resolution had no binding legal effect on the actions of the German government.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pointed out on Friday that the Bundestag resolution was non-binding.

“The German Bundestag naturally has every right and the freedom to express itself on political issues,” Steinmeier said. “But the Bundestag itself said that there is not a legally binding basis for every resolution.”

Discussions had taken place about who should make the announcement, the report said, with neither Steinmeier nor Merkel prepared to do so personally. Both politicians are said to privately support the parliament’s position.

Government spokesman Seibert said on Friday, however, that there could not be any talk of Germany distancing itself from the Armenia resolution.

Call for redeployment

Steinmeier is a member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which has said Germany should redeploy its troops to another support base in the Middle East, should German parliamentarians continue to be barred from visiting personnel.

Although Germany is not directly engaged in combat operations against IS, it has deployed a number of surveillance aircraft to assist the US-led coalition. The German parliament is scheduled to decide on a mandate to extend the mission in December.

The topic of the murder of some 1.5 million Armenians and other Christians by the Otttomans during 1915-16 is a particularly sensitive one in Turkey, which claims the figures are inflated and that the killings do not constitute genocide.

Author Richard Connor

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