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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
ISTANBUL/BERLIN (BosNewsLife)– Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Germany to protest against the German Parliament’s decision to declare the massacre of Armenians during World War I a “genocide”. The vote heightens German-Turkish tensions amid an ongoing refugee crisis.
“An example of ignorance and disrespect”. That was how Turkey described the decision by German legislators to overwhelmingly adopt a resolution Thursday declaring the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their mainly Christian people died in the atrocities of 1915. Turkey says the toll was much lower and rejects the term “genocide”.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the resolution would seriously affect relations with Germany, and that the government would consider further measures in response to the vote. “I have recently consulted the prime minister and we have agreed on the fact to call back our ambassador [from Germany] for further consultations to Turkey,” he told reporters.
“When the ambassador comes back we are going to sit down and we are going to discuss these issues which have the potential of creating significant tensions and have the potential of impacting the relations between Germany and Turkey,” he added.
The vote comes at a sensitive time in German-Turkish relations: Germany and other European Union nations say they need Turkey’s help control the arrival of people fleeing war and poverty.
Yet German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she hopes the vote will not further escalate tensions. “Regarding the vote in the German parliament I would like to say that there is a lot that binds Germany to Turkey,” she said.
“And even if we have a difference of opinion on an individual matter, the breadth of our links, our friendship, our strategic ties, is great, starting with defence issues and many other issues, and last but not least the three million Turkish citizens that live in our country,” the chancellor stressed.
Some analysts have suggested however that economic relations between Turkey and Germany are huge and that therefore the vote will not have a long term impact on ties.
Several other leaders had already described their concerns over the mass killings of Armenians. In 2015 Pope Francis described the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as the first genocide of the 20th century.