Sweden labels mass World War I killing of Armenians genocide with 1-vote margin

By Karl Ritter, AP
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sweden labels mass killing of Armenians genocide

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s parliament narrowly approved a resolution Thursday recognizing the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Turkey as genocide, prompting the Turkish government to recall its ambassador in protest.

The measure passed with a one-vote margin in a surprise decision that came a week after a U.S. congressional committee approved a similar resolution.

Sweden’s governing center-right coalition opposed the measure but it passed in a 131-130 vote because a handful of center-right lawmakers broke party lines. Eighty-eight lawmakers were absent in the 349-seat assembly.

“After 95 years it is time for people who have suffered so long to obtain redress,” said Gulan Avci, a Liberal Party lawmaker who broke her party’s line and backed the measure, which had been proposed by the left-leaning opposition. Avci is a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

Turkey recalled its ambassador to Sweden immediately after the vote and the Anatolia news agency reported that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled a visit to Sweden on March 17.

“We condemn the decision. Our government, and our people strongly reject the resolution crippled by big mistakes and devoid of basis,” the Turkish government said in a statement.

The resolution also labeled as genocide the killings of Assyrians and Pontian Greeks, ethnic groups that also suffered under the Ottoman Turks.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he regretted the Parliament’s decision, saying it “will unfortunately not have a positive effect on the ongoing normalization process between Turkey and Armenia.”

The U.S. congressional committee approved a similar measure there in a 23-22 vote that would send it to the full House of Representatives, if the leadership decided to bring it up. Minutes after the vote, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the U.S.

Turkish Ambassador to Sweden Zergun Koruturk told Anatolia that the Parliament’s decision was harmful for relations between the two countries.

“I hope they are aware of the damage done here,” she said.

Countries recognizing the genocide include Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Russia, Canada, Lebanon, Belgium, Greece, Italy, the Vatican, France, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Poland, Lithuania and Cyprus.

Associated Press Writer Ceren Kumova in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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