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Genocide row: Turkey recalls ambassador

AFP/The Local · 23 Apr 2015, 06:31

Published: 23 Apr 2015 06:31 GMT+02:00

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"The declaration by the Austrian parliament permanently scarred the friendship and relations between Turkey and Austria," the Turkish foreign ministry said, announcing it was recalling ambassador Hasan Gogus "for consultations".

Two days before the centenary of the killings in eastern Turkey, Austrian parliamentarians held a minute of silence Wednesday for the victims of what they labelled a "genocide" for the first time.

"April 24, 1915 marks the beginning of the persecutions, which ended in genocide," parliament president Doris Bures said before the silent tribute.

The leaders of Austria's six major parties also issued a statement declaring that Austria, as a former ally of the Ottoman Empire, had a "duty to recognise and condemn these horrific events as genocide".

They called on Turkey - which rejects the highly sensitive term to describe the World War I killings -  to take responsibility for its role in the mass murders.

"It is Turkey's duty to face the dark and painful chapter of its past and recognise the crimes committed against Armenians under the Ottoman empire as genocide," the statement read.

The Turkish foreign ministry accused the Austrians of "historically tendentious behaviour" and an "insult to the Turkish people that is contrary to the facts".

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in a military campaign aimed at eradicating the Armenian people from Anatolia, in what is now eastern Turkey.

They have long sought to win international recognition of the massacres as genocide.

Turkey, while saying it shares the pain of Armenians over the events, has always vehemently rejected use of the term genocide, contending that hundreds of thousands were killed on both sides as Ottoman forces battled the Russian empire for control of Anatolia.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis drew Turkey's wrath after describing the killings as "the first genocide of the 20th century".

Turkey summoned the Vatican's ambassador in Ankara over the remarks and recalled the Turkish envoy to the Holy See.

More than 20 nations, including France and Russia, have recognised the Armenian genocide.

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AFP/The Local (rosie.waites@thelocal.com)

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