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AFP, Associated Press
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that a reference by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the "Armenian genocide" as fact had hurt bilateral relations.

"We are appalled by the prime minister's comments, which give support to Armenia's unfounded allegations of genocide," the ministry said in a statement. The statement said Harper's reference to the "Armenian allegations" as fact was serious, and that his position on the issue would "negatively affect ties between Turkey and Canada".

The Canadian head of government had on Friday praised commemorations of the massacres in Armenia during World War I. He noted that the Canadian Senate had passed a resolution in 2002 recognizing the killings in Armenia as the first genocide of the 20th century, and the House of Commons had followed suit two years later.

"My party and I have applied those resolutions and continue to do so," the prime minister said in a statement.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the two resolutions had led to the "stagnation" of bilateral relations. The statement also recalled that a Turkish military attache had been killed by an Armenian militant group in Ottawa in 1982. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on Tuesday quoted a diplomat as saying the prime minister's comments had led to Canadian companies being excluded from a forthcoming bid to build Turkey's first nuclear plant.

Meanwhile, former Czech President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday equated the mass killings of Armenians by Turks 90 years ago to the slaughter of Jews in World War II, calling both "holocausts." Havel made his comments at a conference of education ministers in Prague, in which he told participants that modern civilization's loss of a moral code should be blamed for mass slaughters.

"In such a situation, a holocaust, be it the holocaust of Armenians or Jews, ... these big catastrophes in fact are monstrous but in a way understandable products of this ... civilization," he said.

Havel told the Council of Europe conference that holocausts "are not a problem of individual nations but of the whole of mankind, of modern civilization. It's a shame of this civilization."

"It is like if this world ... had a weakened conscience, because conscience is something less rational, less describable by means of modern science," Havel said. "Affirm and universal moral code which everybody can understand is trailing away."

Havel, a renowned writer and playwright, led Czechoslovakia from 1989 until its split in 1993, and then served as president of the Czech Republic until 2003.

The two-day conference - "Teaching remembrance: Cultural Heritage - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" – brought participants to the former Jewish ghetto in Theresienstadt on its first day Monday.

(AP-Photolur photo: Stephen Harper.)
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