German Opposition Leader Wants Turkey to Improve Ties with Armenia

(RFE/RL)–Germany’s top opposition leader who is tipped to defeat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in upcoming parliamentary elections urged Turkey on Thursday to improve its strained relations with Armenia before starting accession talks with the European Union.

Reuters news agency quoted Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel as saying that "time is ripe" for Turkey to establish direct relations with Armenia. She said the Turkish government should also clarify its stance on Cyprus before the start of the accession talks on October 3.

The CDU–which is strongly opposed to Turkish membership in the EU–is the main sponsor of a draft resolution by the German parliament–the Bundestag–that calls on Turkey to "take historic responsibility" for the Armenian genocide.

Although the declaration–which is expected to be formally adopted by the Bundestag next month–stops short of calling the mass killings genocide–it has been strongly condemned by Ankara. In a statement last February–Turkey’s ambassador to Germany accused the CDU of acting as a "spokesman for fanatical Armenian nationalism."

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