Turkey Recalls Ambassador to Canada Over Genocide Commemoration

OTTOWA, Canada (CTV)–Turkey’s decision to recall its ambassador to Canada to protest an event commemorating the Armenian genocide is “blatant blackmail” of the Canadian government and people, said a prominent member of the Canadian-Armenian community on Wednesday.

Turkey has recalled Ambassador Rafet Akgunay to protest the decision by some Parliamentarians to attend an event Tuesday night that commemorated Canada’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Canada’s Parliament voted in favor of a member’s bill acknowledging the genocide five years ago under former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Turkey’s move to recall its ambassador is “ridiculous” and the Canadian government should respond in kind, said Aris Babikian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of Canada.

“This is purely and blatant blackmail of Canada and the Canadian people. And this is blatant interference in our internal affairs,” Babikian told CTV.ca in a telephone interview from Ottawa on Wednesday. “We are not a banana republic where Turkey can dictate what to do, what to say, what to organize.”

The event was organized by the Congress of Canadian Armenians on the fifth anniversary of Canada’s decision to formally recognize the Genocide.

The event in question was attended by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, among other members of Parliament.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent a message to the event’s organizers in which he paid tribute to the “terrible loss of life during the demise of the Ottoman empire in 1915, and in particular the horrific suffering endured by the Armenian people.”

Calls to spokespersons for Kenney and Ignatieff, as well as to Turkey’s embassy in Ottawa, were not immediately returned on Wednesday.

According to Burak Ozugergin, a spokesperson for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, Akgunay was recalled for “thorough evaluations and consultations.”

Ozugergin did not specify why the ambassador was recalled or how long the recall the will last.

However, a Turkish government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the move was in response to the event held in Ottawa on Tuesday evening to commemorate the killing of Armenians at the close of the First World War.

This is not the first time that Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Canada over the genocide issue. In 2006, Turkey withdrew its ambassador, pulled out of a planned military exercise in Canada and criticized Harper for comments he made on the Genocide.

Babikian said that Canada’s decision to recognize the genocide not only acknowledges an important human rights issue. It also honors the Canadians who raised money to bring Armenian orphans to Canada in 1922, an event that Babikian said marked Canada’s role in “pioneering” international humanitarian efforts.

The issue is also coming to the fore in the United States, where legislators have introduced a bill that would reaffirm the US record on the Genocide. If the legislation is passed.

Intense opposition from the Bush administration quashed a similar bill two years ago.

As a Senator and as a presidential candidate, President Obama was a strong advocate of proper Armenian Genocide recognition and swift action to stop the Darfur Genocide. During his 2008 campaign for the White House, Obama repeatedly pledged to “respond forcefully to all genocides,” including the one currently raging in Darfur.

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