(Reuters) - The Dutch parliament on Thursday passed a motion recognizing as genocide the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, although the government said it will not become official policy of the Netherlands.
The motion, which was opposed by just three lawmakers out of 150, risks further straining relations between The Hague and Ankara, which have been tense since the Dutch barred a Turkish minister from campaigning in the Netherlands last year.
“The government will not follow the judgment of the parliament,” Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told Dutch television before the vote.
She urged “utmost caution when applying the term genocide to past events”. “This cabinet wants to be very careful about relations with Turkey, which have been better,” she said.
Relations between the two countries, both members of NATO, went into a freeze last year when the Netherlands deported a Turkish minister who had come to campaign among the Dutch Turkish minority for a constitutional referendum in Turkey.
Turkey summoned the Dutch charge d‘affaires to Ankara on Saturday to express its unhappiness with the impending vote on Armenia. Nearly a dozen other EU countries have passed similar resolutions. On February 5, the Netherlands said it will not attempt to appoint an ambassador to Turkey for now.
A second motion passed on Thursday calls for a high level Dutch government official to attend Armenia’s formal genocide remembrance day on April 24. In the past the country’s Dutch ambassador has attended.
Kaag said the government will consider how best to represent the Dutch government at the commemoration.
Most scholars outside Turkey consider the killings were a genocide, that is, an attempt to destroy an entire people in part or whole.
Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed during World War One, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated or constitute a genocide.
“The politicization of 1915 events by taking them out of historical context is unacceptable,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement before the vote.