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Turkey Chides Canada Over Armenian Genocide Vote


By Gareth Jones
(Reuters) - Turkey on Thursday condemned the Canadian parliament's decision to recognize the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide and warned of damage to bilateral ties.

Canada's parliament voted 153-68 on Wednesday in support of a motion classifying the events of 90 years ago as genocide, disregarding an appeal from the Canadian government.

"We strongly condemn the approval by Canada's Federal Parliament of this decision which follows (the pressure of) marginal groups despite our objections," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "This decision will benefit neither Canadian Armenians nor Armenia. Responsibility for all the negative consequences of this decision belongs to the Canadian politicians," it added.

The ministry did not say what these consequences might be, but Turkish diplomats in Ottawa suggested Canadian companies may face obstacles securing contracts in Turkey.

Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said the motion would not alter Ottawa's official policy, that while the events of 1915 were a tragedy, they did not constitute genocide.

In Yerevan, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian hailed the Canadian motion. "With this step Canada paid tribute to millions of Armenians who became victims of the genocide by the Ottoman Empire and reminds the world that crimes like that never expire," he said.

Canada's embassy in Ankara issued a statement calling for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians. It also urged their governments to deal with the issue of the alleged genocide and to work for greater stability in their "volatile region".

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations and their border is closed because of the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory populated by Christian Armenians but assigned to Muslim Azerbaijan in Soviet times. Turkey has close linguistic and cultural ties with oil-rich Azerbaijan.

Earlier this week, Turkey also criticized a reference to the alleged genocide on an Armenian monument unveiled in Poland. The word "slandered" the Turkish nation, the Foreign Ministry said, and hurt Turkey's historically warm ties with Poland. Parliaments in Russia, France and Switzerland, have also adopted motions describing the events of 1915 as genocide.

Turkey froze official visits to France and temporarily blocked French firms from entering lucrative defense contracts in 2001 after the French parliament backed the Armenian case. France is home to Europe's biggest Armenian Diaspora.

The U.S. Congress dropped a similar resolution in 2000 after the White House warned it would harm U.S. security interests in the Middle East.
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