SYDNEY—Barry O’Farrell, Premier of New South Wales, is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Turkey that could potentially impact 2015′s Anzac centenary commemorations following calls by the speaker of the Turkish government for the NSW Premier to renounce a motion condemning Turkey for the genocide of Armenians, The Telegraph reports.
O’Farrell lashed back last night, saying “it’s deplorable anyone associated with the Turkish government would try and use [the] centenary of the Gallipoli landing for political purposes.”
Turkish Grand National Assembly Speaker Cemil Cicek, who holds the country’s second highest office, said members of parliament should confine themselves to issues involving their own communities.
In May this year, Premier O’Farrell moved a motion in state parliament reaffirming a 1997 motion that “recognized and condemned the genocide of the Armenians by the then-Ottoman government between 1915 and 1922″, and designated 24 April of every year thereafter as a day of remembrance of the 1.5 million Armenians who fell victim to “the first genocide of the twentieth century”.
He did so after lobbying from Christian Democrat Member of Parliament Fred Nile, whose vote is crucial to the government in the upper house and who moved a similar motion in the upper house after meeting with Armenian leaders.
O’Farrell’s closest confidant in cabinet, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, is of Armenian heritage, as is the federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey.
Speaking through an interpreter during an interview in his offices in Ankara, Cicek said: “Parliaments should not be a place for shortsighted or political interest groups to raise matters which relate to history.”
Cicek said the right people to be discussing such matter were historians.
“If historians were to come together … and come out with a conclusion in favor of the Armenians and say, ‘Turks, you’ve done wrong’, as a country we are happy to accept that.”
Cicek said he could “go to parliament and put forward a motion condemning Australia for sending out the fleet to fight on the shores of Gallipoli … but that is not going to be good for Australia-Turkey relations.
“It can cause a huge rift between the two countries and jeopardize even the Anzac commemoration activities here in Turkey as well.”
Asked if he was calling on the Premier to withdraw the motion, Cicek said: “Naturally, I would like it to be withdrawn.”
Asked about Turkey’s threat to ban NSW parliamentarians who proposed the motion coming to Anzac commemorations in 2015, Cicek said: “That is the case.”
“Parliamentarians should be looking at matters that are of interest to their own communities, not looking at matters that are abroad.”