German gov't refuses to label 1915 as genocide

German gov't refuses to label 1915 as genocide

Celal Özcan BERLIN
German govt refuses to label 1915 as genocide

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. AA photo

The government of Germany has declared that it is against labeling the deaths of Ottoman Armenians as genocide and is not planning any commemoration for the anniversary of the 1915 events.

According to Armenia, up to 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians were killed starting from 1915. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll during the mass deportation of Ottoman Armenians has been inflated and that those killed in 1915 and 1916 were victims of general unrest during the World War I.

Upon a parliamentary question from Die Linke, which is the main opposition party in Germany, the German Foreign Ministry clarified its position regarding the 1915 events with a written statement. According to the four-point response, the question whether the events constituted genocide should be answered by historians and the issue should be solved between Turkey and Armenia.

The statement also stressed that the United Nations' 1948 convention, which defines genocide, does not apply retroactively.

"We are informed about the initiatives planned by Armenian communities for the 100th anniversary of the 1915/1916 events. The German government currently has no action plan for commemorations at the moment," the statement added.

Ulla Jelpke, a member of the Bundestag from Die Linke, said the German government's stance was "unacceptable." After claiming that the German and Ottoman Turkish governments of the time were "accomplices," Jelpke said the current government in Berlin was "evading responsibility."

On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman government signed the Deportation Law, which stipulated the forced migration of Ottoman Armenians.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan recently rebuffed an invitation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to attend ceremonies marking the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli in Çanakkale on April 24, 2015.

In a landmark statement on the Armenian issue delivered on April 23, 2014, Erdoğan highlighted the “shared pain” endured during the 1915 events, expressing condolences on behalf of the Turkish state to the grandchildren of Armenians who lost their lives “in the context of the early 20th century.” 

Then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, on the other hand, labeled the deportation as "wrong" and "inhumane" in December 2013.

Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan Rafael Harpaz announced early this month that the Tel Aviv government would not recognize the events as genocide.