By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s resolution labeling the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide is “counterproductive” and likely to hinder reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, a Bundestag lawmaker said Friday.
Oliver Wittke, who abstained in Thursday’s vote, told Anadolu Agency the vote would also obstruct efforts to improve human rights and democracy in Turkey.
“I think that this resolution will be counterproductive,” he said. “For the time being, this resolution will make it more difficult to make progress in efforts towards reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.”
Wittke, a deputy from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, added: “If we want to have a positive impact on conditions in Turkey, we should know that we can only achieve this with Turkey. We can’t do this against the will of Turkey.
“This resolution does not promote enhanced cooperation with Turkey in this regard. It is, rather, making this more difficult.”
The non-binding resolution accuses the Ottoman government of conducting “systematic genocide” against Armenians and other Christian minorities in 1915.
It was approved by all the lawmakers present for the vote except Wittke and fellow Christian Democrat Bettina Kudla.
However, Wittke noted that around a third of lawmakers were not in the chamber for the vote. “I don’t think that all of them had very important appointments,” he said. Senior ministers including Merkel and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel were also absent.
The motion drew a strong reaction from Ankara, which recalled its ambassador to Berlin. Leading politicians condemned the resolution and voiced concerns about the potential impact on German-Turkish relations.
– Focused on past
“One has to ask oneself ‘What would such a resolution bring?’,” Wittke said. “I would like to see freedoms — religious freedoms, press freedom and freedom of expression — expanded in Turkey. Will such a resolution help to achieve this? In my opinion, it will not.
“This resolution is focusing on the past. It is not focusing on today. It is not directed towards the future.”
Commentators have suggested that the Christian Democrat leadership did not oppose the resolution as they did not wish to appear to side with Turkey, as they have been accused of doing in the wake of the EU-Turkey deal on refugees and the investigation of a German comedian for insulting Turkey’s president.
During Thursday’s debate lawmakers criticized Turkey’s record on democracy and human rights but Wittke argued any shortcomings would be better addressed by reviving Turkey’s EU membership talks.
“We should accelerate Turkey’s EU process,” he said. “Here, there are steps that have to be taken by Turkey. This is very important. Only that way we can achieve change.
“Europe and Turkey are important strategic partners. They are bearing responsibility together on many significant issues, not only in terms of the economy but also in politics.”
He added: “I believe that the EU and Turkey, Germany and Turkey, will become closer rather than becoming more divided. I am not pessimistic, I am hopeful.”
The events of 1915 saw some of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population side with invading Russian forces, resulting in numerous deaths in the subsequent fighting and relocation of Armenians.
Turkey accepts that many died on both sides but says this did not amount to genocide and has repeatedly called for the creation of an international commission to resolve the issue.