Turkish leaders are warning Germany that the countries’ relationship will be harmed if lawmakers approve a measure labeling the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.
Germany’s parliament is due to vote on the bill Thursday.
The text says the Armenian deaths are an example of the mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, expulsions and genocides that marked the last century in a “terrible way.” It also assigns some responsibility to Germany, which was an ally of the Ottoman Empire that preceded modern Turkey.
Armenia says 1.5 million people were killed between 1915 and 1917. Turkey acknowledges that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died, but denies that their killings constituted a campaign of genocide.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (pictured) said Wednesday the German vote is “nonsense.”
His comments followed those Tuesday from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said if the bill passes it will damage future diplomatic, economic, commercial, political and military relations with Germany. He spoke about the issue in a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
About 3 million ethnic Turks live in Germany, including some who demonstrated Saturday in Berlin against the bill.
Russia and France are among about 20 countries that recognize the killings as genocide. Pope Francis has too, but many countries, including the United States, do not. President Barack Obama said in April it was the first mass atrocity of the 20th century, but did not call it genocide. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has used the term “atrocity crimes” to describe the killings.
Thursday’s vote comes at a time of already tense relations between Turkey and European Union nations.
Erdogan threatened last week to cancel an agreement to help limit the flow of migrants traveling through Turkey to Europe. The deal calls for the EU to give billions of dollars in aid to Turkey in exchange for Turkish authorities accepting the return of migrants who fail to qualify for asylum and cracking down on smuggling networks.
Turkey is hosting nearly 3 million refugees who have fled the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Erdogan said Turkey also needs the EU to approve visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. The European Commission recommended earlier this month that member states approve the visa waiver by the end of June, but said Turkey still had to address a number of criteria including human rights issues.
Those concerns have also been raised in connection with Turkey’s application to join the EU.
An April progress report on Turkey’s bid accused the government of “backsliding” on democracy, criticizing its records on human rights and media freedom. Turkey rejected the report, which also included reference to a 2015 resolution encouraging Turkey to recognize Armenian genocide.