By Emil Danielyan
A key committee of the European Parliament insisted late Monday that recognition of the Armenian genocide must be a precondition for Turkey’s membership in the European Union and urged Ankara to normalize relations with Yerevan.
In a report adopted by 53 votes in favor to 6 against with 8 abstentions, the Committee on Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the EU assembly’s earlier resolutions that described the 1915-1918 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
The committee condemned as “racist and xenophobic” a government-connected group that rallied thousands of nationalist Turks in France and Germany last spring to protest against a growing number of European countries recognizing the genocide. It urged Ankara to ban the group named after Talaat Pasha, one of the three top leaders of Ottoman Turkey’s last government whom historians regard as the main mastermind of the massacres.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the EU parliamentarians’ demands on Tuesday. "We announced this before. That is, to expect us to change (our stance) is simply chasing a dream," state news agency Anatolian quoted Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as saying, according to Reuters.
"Our decisiveness on the subject of the so-called Armenian genocide is the same today as it was in the past. Nobody should expect us to change this," Erdogan said, adding the decisions taken by the European Parliament are not binding.
"We are dismayed by efforts aiming to impose preconditions that are far from objective on questions that require serious academic inquiry," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a communique.
The Turkish government has rejected similar resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in the past. The most recent of those resolutions, passed in September 2005, said Turkish recognition of the genocide is a “prerequisite for accession to the European Union.”
The latest report, which deplores Turkey’s lack of progress in implementing reforms needed to join the EU, is due to be debated by the full European Parliament later this year. It calls on Turkey to drop its preconditions for opening the land border and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia.
The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy, a Brussels-based lobbying group, welcomed the proposed resolution. “We congratulate the rapporteur and the many members of Parliament who reaffirmed the political line of the Parliament, which makes the recognition of the Genocide a prerequisite for accession," its chairwoman, Hilda Tchoboian, said in a statement.
Still, Tchoboian disagreed with another provision of the report that effectively endorses Ankara’s proposal to set up a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians that would study the events of 1915-1918.
The proposal, made by Erdogan last year, was rejected by Armenia. In a written response to the Turkish premier, President Robert Kocharian said that this and other issues hampering a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement should be tackled by the two governments, rather than historians.