German Bundestag to Vote on Armenian Genocide Bill by April 24

The German parliamentary building. (Source: Public Radio of Armenia)
The German parliamentary building. (Source: Public Radio of Armenia)

The German parliamentary building. (Source: Public Radio of Armenia)

BERLIN (Combined Sources) — The German Bundestag held a debate on the Armenian Genocide today and decided to postpone the vote for the new Armenian Genocide bill proposed by the Alliance 90/The Greens political party. The ruling coalition said it’s not the proper time to adopt the bill and proposed to continue the discussions in the coming weeks to prepare a new finalized document by April 24, 2016.

Chairman of the Alliance 90/The Greens Cem Ozdemir agreed to withdraw his bill on condition that the new document to be agreed before April 24 clearly mentions the events of 1915 as genocide, accepts Germany’s role in the massacre and contributes to the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations.

The issue was brought to the agenda by the Alliance 90/The Greens, a green political party in Germany which has always urged to describe the events of 1915 as ‘genocide.’

Addressing the Bundestag today, Ozdemir said “the authorities have no common stance on the issue out of the fear to irritate Erdogan. “I don’t understand why we cannot vote for this bill. We should do that for the simple reason of clearing our conscience,” he said.

“Turkey is distorting its own history, while our goal is to establish the truth. A clear message on the part of Germany could change a lot,” Ozdemir said.

Klaus Brähmig of CDU/CSU said, in turn, that “the current Turkish authorities are not responsible for their ancestors, but can take steps to improve relations with Armenia.”

“Today we need no reports criticizing Turkey. Instead, we need steps that will contribute to the settlement of the migrants’ issue. Judging from our own history, we can say that no matter how actively we invite Turkey to assess their own past, their people must be ready for it. It will happen, when there is no pressure from the outside. Therefore, we cannot vote in favor of this resolution,” he said.

“We need to respect ourselves and refrain from kissing Turkey’s eyes every time. You asked for time, and we gave you plenty,” Ozdemir told the coalition. “Turkey speaks of civilized society, but persecutes journalists who dare speak openly,” he added.

“If we really manage to work out a new document before April 24 on the basis of the three above-mentioned points, we’ll say ‘We are with you.’ But when time comes, you’ll find other obstacles,” Chairman of the Greens Party said.

The bill debated today noted that “the German Bundestag bows to the victims of forced displacement and massacre of the Armenians and Aramaeans, Assyrians and other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire, which began 100 years ago. It deplored the actions of the then Turkish government, almost full annihilation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

The resolution noted that “the fate of the Armenians stands as exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”  German President Joachim Gauck used the same wording as he addressed a commemoration ceremony on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The bill stated that “An honest appraisal of history is the most important basis for reconciliation.”

The bill also referred to the German role in the Armenian Genocide, noting that “today’s German authorities are obliged to contribute to the resumption of the Armenian-Turkish relations, opening of the shared border.”

Unlike the resolution adopted by the Bundestag in 2005, the bill considered today clearly described the events as “genocide.”

In 2005, Germany’s parliament adopted a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. However, in the Bundestag’s decision, the term Armenian Genocide was avoided, and instead “massacres of Armenians” was used.  In March of 2015, the President of the German Parliament Norbert Lammert said: “what happened in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War in front of the whole world, was genocide. And it was not the last genocide of the 20th century. ”

On April 24, before the Bundestag hearings, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced that he supports those MPs, who are in favor of calling the mass killings of Armenians “Genocide.” On April 23, during the ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral dedicated to the memory of the Armenian Genocide, German President Joachim Gauck used the term “Genocide” in his speech.

Meanwhile, well known genocide scholar Tessa Hofmann believes that the actions of Germany regarding the resolution will be same as their actions in 1915. Although this topic is on the agenda of the German Parliament for this Thursday, Hofmann highly doubts that the Bundestag will pay much attention to the resolution. She explained in an interview with Armenpress that currently the relations between Turkey and Germany play a crucial role and their focus is on the refugee crisis.

“In this situation our Foreign Office will do everything possible not to disturb the relations with Ankara – comparable to the situation in 1915, when official Germany sacrificed all human and humanitarian criteria for the sake of Ottoman-German military alliance. Neither the Ottoman genocide, nor the ongoing fight against the Kurds in Turkey (with all its ‘collateral damage’ to the Kurdish civic population) will change this, I am afraid. And the critics of such ‘real political’ attitudes in this country are not numerous and influential enough to stop it. And even if the possibility of a parliamentary debate on the Armenian genocide is discussed next Thursday, there is little chance that the oppositional ‘Green’ Party gains enough support among the ruling coalition of conservatives and Social-Democrats,” Tessa Hofmann said.

“Alliance ’90 / The Greens” and its co-president have repeatedly condemned the Armenian Genocide, urging Turkey to recognize the historical facts and come to terms with the reality.

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