(AFP, AP) - Making a crisis with Ankara virtually inevitable, the Swiss parliament followed several other legislatures around the world Tuesday in recognizing that the slaughter of much of the Armenian people under the Ottoman Empire amounted to the crime of genocide.
The parliament's 107-67 vote in favor of branding Turkey as a genocidal killer flies in the face of the policy of the government, which refers to the 1915 slaughters as "tragic events having led to the death of an extremely high number of Armenians."
No immediate reaction was available from Turkish diplomats in Switzerland. Swiss-based Armenian groups welcomed the vote.
As a foretaste of likely Turkish reaction, Ankara angrily called off a visit by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey in October after the canton of Vaud said it would recognize the killings as genocide. The canton of Geneva issued a similar judgment in 2001.
Several of the countries with large Armenian populations, including Argentina, France and Russia, have also ruled that the massacres were a genocide, as has the European Parliament.
Unlike an earlier motion rejected in 2001, the resolution by the lower house of parliament in Bern does not formally require the Swiss government to recognize that a genocide had indeed taken place. Instead, it asks only that the government acknowledge the decision and transmit it to Turkey. Opponents of the declaration denounced what they called selective morality, and warned that the motion could damage relations with an important trading partner.
The Swiss Armenian Association and a society for threatened peoples jointly issued a statement expressing their "great satisfaction" that Switzerland had "given a clear sign of justice for the victims of genocide and for their descendants." Promoters of the measure stresed that it was not aimed at modern Turkey but rather designed to right a historic wrong.
It was "a sign of justice toward the victims and the survivors, and their descendants," said Ueli Leuenberger, a Green party deputy from Geneva. Although the measure was originally supported by the Greens and the Socialists, many center-right politicians also went along with it.
Dominique de Buman, one of two Christian Democrat parliamentarians who proposed the resolution, said a vote was needed to reflect historical truth. "Time cannot heal all wounds," he said, adding that he did not want to provoke a dispute with modern Turkey.
But Radical Democrat Johann Schneider-Ammann, president of a Swiss industrial federation, said he feared the vote could damage trading links with Turkey. Calmy-Rey also spoke against the resolution in parliament Tuesday. She warned that political declarations coming from abroad do not always have the desired effect, and that the parliamentary statement would be more likely than not to harden Turkey's defensive attitude.
(AP-Photolur photo: Calmy-Rey addressing the Swiss parliament Tuesday.)