BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed as “incomprehensible” accusations levied by Turkey against German lawmakers of Turkish origin after Germany’s parliament passed a resolution declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide.
Last week’s symbolic parliamentary resolution in the Bundestag lower house infuriated Turkey, which rejects the idea that the killings of Christian Armenians during World War One was a genocide.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a crucial ally for Merkel and her European partners in tackling the continent’s migrant crisis, has accused Germans of hypocrisy, given their own history in the 20th century.
He also said the blood of German lawmakers of Turkish origin who voted for the resolution should be tested.
“The lawmakers in Germany’s lower house of parliament are freely elected without exception and the accusations and statements which have been made by the Turkish side are incomprehensible,” Merkel told a news conference on Tuesday.
“It was clear with the passing of the resolution that there is a difference of views between the majority of the Bundestag and the Turkish side,” said Merkel, stressing she would push for direct talks between Turkey and Armenia.
Germany invited a senior Turkish diplomat to the foreign ministry to discuss Ankara’s reaction. An official said the latest comments on German lawmakers were not in line with traditionally close ties between the countries.
Earlier on Tuesday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the German government should make clear that it did not share parliament’s view on the Armenian issue.
He also said Turkey would have to suspend its deal with the EU to stem the flow of migrants to Europe if there was no agreement on granting visa-free travel to Turks. The collapse of the pact would be a major blow for Merkel who has championed it.
Addressing the charge of hypocrisy, Merkel said Germany would continue to deal with its legacy of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered, and she would push for the creation of a historical commission to help Turkey and Armenia.
While Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915, it denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that this constituted an act of genocide, a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments.
Merkel also said she would try to help end the conflict between Armenian-backed separatists and Azeri forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. That could improve Turkey-Armenia ties, she told the news conference, also attended by the visiting president of Azerbaijan.
The Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, representing an estimated 60,000 Armenian Christians in the mostly Muslim country, issued a statement condemning the German resolution.
It said the German parliament had no right to express its opinion on the subject, and that its judgment was unacceptable and wrong.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Caroline Copley, Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones)