Analysis. The president of Turkey said Berlin’s decision to recognize the Armenian genocide is a “very serious” setback to relations. But for German parliament, current politics “does not change the fact that unspeakable sufferings were imposed on the Armenians.”

Germany’s verdict on Armenian genocide complicates Turkey relations

A resolution by the Bundestag upsets the relations with Turkey and reopens the E.U.’s strategy games on the migrants’ front. This week, the German parliament has, almost unanimously, approved a text on the Armenian genocide provided by CDU, SPD and Greens. It took a year before being able to put black on white what was stated by Joachim Gauck, the President of the Republic, “the Armenian people’s destiny exemplifies the history of mass murder, the ethnic cleansing, the expulsions and even the genocides which have marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”

The Turkish “retaliation” has been immediate: Mevlut Cavusoglu, the foreign minister, has recalled to Ankara the ambassador, Husein Avni Karslioglu. And from Kenya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has immediately warned: “This vote will have a very serious impact on relationships between Turkey and Germany,” and not just because “the war on History” with Berlin risks blowing up the agreement on abolishing the visa for Turkish citizens in the E.U. in exchange for the hot spots in the immigrants’ odyssey.

The text of the resolution is little more than symbolic; nonetheless the vote was attended by religious people and by representatives of the Armenian community who were holding an explicit sign: “Thank You.” For the first time, the Bundesrepublik officially aligns itself with other 29 countries stigmatizing the Armenian genocide as sanctioned since 1985 by the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission and ratified two years later by the European Parliament.

The document approved Thursday explicitly uses terms that are taboo in Turkey for the massacre of more than 1 million Armenian Christians in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire, at that time allied with the Germans. Ethnic cleansing in the Caucasus, massacres without mercy, deportation of the few survivors. What was left of Armenia was annexed to the USSR at the end of World War I.

And even today Turkey admits only to “nationalist excesses” but does not accept responsibility for the first genocide in the contemporary age.

So much that on the eve of the vote, hundreds of Turkish people demonstrated in Berlin, with national flags, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, a few steps away from the parliament and from the chancellor’s office. Until the last useful moment, Binali Yildrim, the premier, warned the German representatives, nominally calling them to raise their hand: “It will effectively be a true test on the friendship between our countries.”

But, in the end, only two were convinced: a member who voted against and one who abstained. The “retaliation” has already sprang into action: Numan Kurtulmus, the vice-premier, has not digested a “historical error” while Yasin Aktay, the AKP’s influent spokesperson, has even warned about a counter-vote by the Turkish parliament.

Merkel (who, at the end of April was officially visiting the Gaziantep refugees’ camp) is unperturbed, as always: “There’s a lot connecting Germany to Turkey, and even though we have differences on a single issue the solidity of our friendship and of our strategic connections is too important.”

The same in the joint press conference with Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, of which Turkey is a member. But the real match is playing out in Brussels. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, froze without compliments Turkey’s hopes for a first step in the E.U.: “The proposal made by the Juncker Commission to liberalize visas for Turkish citizens is on my desk.”

The European Parliament will not discuss it until Ankara complies with each of 72 conditions, so they are the ones risking blowing up the agreement. It’s the exchange decided in March: financing from Europe in order to defuse the immigration crisis with the offer of free circulation for Turkish citizens. As stated by Omer Celik, the Turkish Minister for European Affairs, “It’s a single package: We have no intention to modify our anti-terrorism legislation.”

But in Brussels, a solution to the problem of the Balkan route is necessary; thus, the agreement with Turkey (a country considered as “safe” although it persecutes the Kurds, opposition journalists and non-Islamists) exists to absorb irregular immigrants in exchange for Syrian refugees in Europe.

As such, the resolution on the Armenian genocide re-inflames the political crisis. Nonetheless, the German coalition is even larger, while Volker Kauder, the CDU’s coalition leader, closes ranks with the chancellor: “Our aim is not to accuse Turkey but to acknowledge that reconciliation is possible only if the facts are put on the table. And the fact that Turkey is making noticeable efforts in order to help the E.U. with managing the refugee crisis does not change the fact that unspeakable sufferings were imposed on the Armenians.”

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