By Armen Zakarian
In a move that again angered Turkey, the parliament of the European Union on Thursday reaffirmed its recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and urged Ankara to lift its 10-year blockade of Armenia.
The European Parliament voted by 391 to 96, with 15 abstentions, to reaffirm its 1987 resolution recognizing the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. It also called on modern-day Turkey to "take appropriate steps in accordance with its European ambitions, especially concerning the termination of the blockade against Armenia."
The call was part of the pan-European legislature's broader resolution calling for the EU's "increased engagement" in the South Caucasus. The non-binding document was drafted by Per Gahrton, a Swedish lawmaker.
Turkish legislators quickly condemned the resolution. A joint statement issued by the six political parties represented in the Turkish parliament denounced the resolution as a "conscious denial of historical fact and acceptance of baseless Armenian claims,” AFP reported from Ankara.
"The Turkish parliament's response to the arbitrary resolution of the European parliament is historical truths and the truth is on our side," said the statement, read out in the general assembly by deputy parliament speaker Yuksel Yalova.
Ankara reacted similarly when the EU assembly referred to the Armenian Genocide in a November 2000 report on Turkey's progress towards membership of the EU.
A key proponent of the initiative, Italian deputy Demetrio Volcic, said the EU legislators overwhelmingly backed the genocide provision despite strong Turkish pressure. "All major factions of the Europarliament voted for today's resolution," one of its key proponents,” Volcic told RFE/RL.
There was no immediate reaction from the Armenian government.
The document contains a long list of demands and recommendations to the EU executive bodies regarding the 15-member union's policy on the South Caucasus. It calls on the Brussels-based policy-makers to "work on comprehensive and long-term Common Strategies for the countries of the Caucasus and to implement them as swiftly as possible.” It says the EU's regional policy should be primarily aimed at "prevention of violent conflicts and the promotion of a framework for security and cooperation, both between the three countries of the region and between them and neighboring countries."
The European Parliament also called on the EU leaders to consider appointing a special envoy for the South Caucasus, open the EU markets to imports from the region and organize a conference on investment and economic development of the three impoverished states.
The resolution further says Armenia and Azerbaijan should step up their efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict. It calls for "the constructive engagement of the authorities in Stepanakert in the peace process" and urges Armenia to "refrain from all measures in the occupied Azeri territories that might be interpreted as aiming at making the Armenian control permanent."