Steinmeier avoids "genocide" label for massacres of Armenians


German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier on Friday refused to label as genocide the massacres of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. "Past atrocities cannot be reduced to a single word or to the dispute over a word," Steinmeier said during a visit to the Estonian capital

Controversy over the issue has risen sharply as Armenians worldwide are getting ready to commemorate the 100th anniversary next week of what they call the systematic extermination of their people by the Ottomans.

Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, vehemently objects to the term genocide. The Turkish government last week accused European Parliament members of showing "religious and cultural fanaticism" by passing a resolution that urges Ankara to recognise the death of as many as 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.

Steinmeier pointed out that discussions are ongoing on a declaration that the German parliament plans to issue on 24 April, the official commemoration day. A draft of the declaration, seen by dpa, does not contain the term genocide. Instead, it says that the "annihilation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I was the biggest and most momentous catastrophe in the history of the Armenian people." The draft declaration calls upon Turkey to "no longer deny the facts."

Prominent lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat party have criticised the government for bowing to Turkey's interests.  (dpa)