Swiss President Backs Turkish Genocide Commission

BERNE, Switzerland (Today’s Zaman)–The president of the Swiss Confederation has backed Turkey’s calls to form a commission that would ostensibly ‘study Armenian claims’ of genocide, saying the dispute over history should be settled by historians, not politicians.

Pascal Couchepin is on a visit to Turkey on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Turkey. He had talks with President Abdullah Gul on Monday and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan on Tuesday.

The lower house of the Swiss Parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2003, causing strain in bilateral relations with Turkey. Last year, Dogu Perincek, a Turkish politician and the leader of the small Workers’ Party (IP) was convicted in a Swiss court in March 2007 under the country’s anti-racism laws for denying the Armenia genocide. He was ordered to pay a fine of 3,000 Swiss fran’s ($2,450) and was given a suspended penalty of 9,000 fran’s ($7,360). The ruling angering Turkey which criminalizes discussion and debate on the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian issue was one of the items discussed in Couchepin’s talks with Gul late on Monday. To Turkey’s dismay, the Swiss leader defended his country’s laws penalizing denial of the genocide at a press conference with Gul. He said the laws were passed 20 years ago with the principal purpose of punishing denial of the Holocaust and that the Swiss judges had the flexibility to interpret laws according to different circumstances. Couchepin also referred to Perincek, without citing his name, as a "provocateur."

"One of the people is currently under arrest in Turkey for provocations," he said. Perincek is one of the 86 suspects in the Ergenekon case, in which the prosecutors blame the shadowy network for plotting against the government and seeking to stage a military coup.

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