STRASBOURG–France (Combined Sources)–European Union lawmakers chided Turkey on Wednesday–five days before it is due to open EU membership talks–demanding that Ankara recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenia’s as genocide before it joins the bloc.
The European Parliament gave grudging blessing to the start of negotiations next Monday after a heated debate in which many members vented strong criticism of Turkey’s human rights record.
With 356 votes in favor–181 against and 125 abstentions–the EU legislature adopted a resolution that "calls on Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide" and "considers this recognition to be a prerequisite for accession to the European Union."
The non-binding resolution was a political slap in the face for Turkey–which still insists there was no genocide.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn also warned Turkey it would have to amend its new penal code–adopted to meet EU criteria–if hardline judges were still able to prosecute the country’s leading novelist for expressing his views on the killings of Armenia’s under Ottoman rule.
"The case of author Orhan Pamuk is emblematic of the difficulties ensuring effective and uniform implementation of these reforms–and also of the struggle between reformers and conservatives in Turkey," Rehn told the European Parliament.
An Istanbul judge is prosecuting the writer for "denigrating Turkish identity" by endorsing the term genocide. He faces up to three years in jail if convicted.
Other judges tried in vain to halt an academic conference in Istanbul on the Armenian genocide last week.
The Brussels-based European Armenian Federation [ANC Europe] welcomed the Strasbourg-based parliament’s statement. "This latest appeal by the European Parliament ahead of the negotiations with Turkey must serve as a guideline for the European Council and the European Commission," its chairman–Hilda Tchoboian–said in a statement.
The Federation last week staged a high-profile conference in the parliament–drawing attention to the issue.
"Europeans can be confident those negotiations are effective only if leaders are responsive to the desires of the population; we therefore call on the EU foreign ministers to touch upon the genocide issue during their meeting in Luxembourg on October 3," added Tchoboian.
The EU legislature also demanded that Turkey recognize Cyprus and said negotiations could be suspended unless it gran’s access to Cypriot aircraft and shipping by next year.
EU governmen’s remain deadlocked on a negotiating mandate for the talks–with Austria holding out for a more explicit mention of an alternative to membership.
Ankara reaffirmed on Wednesday it would accept nothing less than full membership.
Diplomats said the 25 EU foreign ministers would probably hold an emergency meeting on Sunday night in Luxembourg–hours before negotiations are meant to start–to seek an agreement.