President Serzh Sarkisian thanked Germany’s leaders for recognizing the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey when he met with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Riga late on Thursday.
In a statement, Sarkisian’s office said the two discussed Armenia’s relations with the EU and Germany in particular as well as international efforts to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It said they also touched upon recent officials ceremonies around the world, including in Berlin, that marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire.
“President Serzh Sarkisian expressed gratitude to Germany’s authorities for their position on the condemnation of the Armenian genocide,” added the statement.
The praise seemed primarily addressed to Germany’s largely ceremonial President Joachim Gauck, who described the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide during an April 23 memorial service in Berlin.
Significantly, Gauck also suggested that Germany, Ottoman Turkey’s World War One ally, itself may bear some of the blame for the tragedy. He said German armed forces were involved in planning and even implementing mass deportations of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian subjects.
The Berlin ceremony, the first of its kind, came just days after Merkel’s coalition government said it no longer opposes the use of the word “genocide” with regard to the Armenian massacres. Successive German governments have been reluctant to apply the term for fear of upsetting Ankara and the 3.5 million people in Germany who are Turkish nationals or of Turkish origin.
Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, debated and effectively approved a corresponding genocide resolution on April 24. “What happened in the middle of the First World War in the Ottoman Empire under the eyes of the world was a genocide,” Bundestag speaker Norbert Lammert, a member of Merkel’s Chritsian Democratic Union party, told fellow lawmakers.
Still, the Bundestag postponed a vote on the resolution, meaning that its de facto recognition of the Armenian genocide has not been formalized yet. There have been suggestions that the German government wants to further delay the vote or water down the resolution because of vehement Turkish protests.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reportedly phoned Merkel on April 21, asking her to persuade German lawmakers not to “offend Turkey.”
Gauck’s ensuing emphatic remarks on the sensitive subject prompted a strong condemnation from the Turkish Foreign Ministry. A ministry statement said the German president, a former Protestant pastor, has no “right to attribute to the Turkish people a crime which they have not committed.”