Bundestag’s Armenian vote not binding: Berlin

Bundestag’s Armenian vote not binding: Berlin

Bundestag’s Armenian vote not binding: Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and international female soccer players of the "Discover Football" project pose for a group picture at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, September 1, 2016. REUTERS photo

The German Bundestag’s declaration of the World War I-era mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide is “not legally binding,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sept. 2, in a move that may signal an attempt to mend frayed ties with Turkey. 

“The German parliament naturally has the right and the freedom to pass any resolution it likes, but the Bundestag itself has said not every resolution is legally binding,” Steinmeier said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, reiterated Steinmeier’s remarks but denied any attempt to appease Ankara.

“There is a false assertion that the German government wants to distance itself from the resolution of the Bundestag. This is absolutely not true,” Seibert said.

He added that parliament, as a sovereign body, had the right to issue statements on political issues of its choice, “even if they are not legally binding, as it says on its website.”

Seibert said it had always been clear that the June 2 vote calling the Ottoman-era mass killing a “genocide” had no legally binding character, a question he said was of great interest to Ankara.

But Seibert rejected as “misleading and wrong” a report by German news site Spiegel Online that, by reiterating this point, Merkel’s government was seeking to appease Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Earlier on Sept. 2, Spiegel Online reported that Seibert was expected to make a public statement that would distance the government from the Bundestag’s decision, in exchange for German lawmakers being able to visit German troops based at İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

The report stated that the duty to make the announcement was given to Seibert on the grounds that “Steinmeier did not want to take on this role [and] a personal appearance by Chancellor Merkel was not an option because it would have been seen as kowtowing [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.”

Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute genocide. It also stresses that many Muslim Turks perished at the time.

Strained relations between Ankara and Berlin due to the Armenian bill got even worse after Turkey rejected a German parliamentary delegation’s visit in late June to İncirlik, which hosts 250 German troops, six surveillance jets and a refueling tanker.

Berlin threatened the removal of its military presence at the base to another regional country, but the German troops and jets at İncirlik contribute to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. 

Merkel said on Sept. 1 that Germany was in talks with Turkey to resolve the row and she expected German troops to be able to continue flying six Tornado reconnaissance planes from the NATO base. 

“We’re all in agreement that lawmakers must be allowed to visit our soldiers,” Merkel said in an interview with German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) on Sept. 1, according to Reuters. “I’m also trying to achieve progress through discussions.”