Swiss Leader Downplays Genocide Recognition Bid

ANKARA–(AFP) – Swiss Vice President Pascal Couchepin on Tuesday played down a proposal submitted to parliament for the recognition of the killings of Armenia’s under Ottoman rule as genocide.

"It is only a statement," Couchepin told a press conference here at the end of a two-day visit–during which he met Turkish government officials–including Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit–and business leaders.

The proposal was submitted on March 18 and signed by a majority of deputies in the lower chamber of the Swiss parliament. It said that "the National Council recognizes the Armenian genocide of 1915" and asks the Swiss government to make its position on the Armenian genocide known through diplomatic means. The proposal is expected to be debated before summer.

Couchepin–who is also the economy minister–recalled parliament had rejected a similar proposal last year by a slight majority and said that "members of parliament generally sign various propositions without really knowing their content."

The new proposal has a less binding wording than last year’s proposal and deman’s recognition from only the lower chamber of the parliament and not from the Swiss government.

"We are aware of the Turkish public opinion’s sensibilities on the issue. I think that the issue should be left to historians and not to political bodies," Couchepin said.

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