Turkey recalls ambassador to Sweden over "genocide" vote

Friday, March 12, 2010

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Sweden after the Swedish Parliament voted to describe Turkey's killings of Armenians in World War I as "genocide".

The Swedish vote came despite the Swedish government's opposition to the resolution, as several parliament members crossed party lines in the vote, which passed the resolution by a vote of 131–130, with 88 parliament members absent. The Swedish government called the vote a "mistake," but added that it will not influence their position on the matter.

The Turkish government released a statement saying, "our people and our government reject this decision based upon major errors and without foundation," and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan immediately cancelled a planned visit to Sweden. Despite the reaction, Turkey said that the moves did "not correspond to the close friendship of our two nations," and they were only recalling their ambassador for consultations.

The resolution is particularly sensitive given that Sweden has long been a strong supporter of Turkey and their bid to join the European Union, and Turkey has been for years maintaining that their actions in World War I against Armenians did not amount to genocide. Despite Turkey's claims, Armenians have been heavily campaigning for the killings, which they say number up to 1.5 million, to be recognized as genocide, and over twenty countries worldwide have done so.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that the vote would likely have a significant effect on the fate of negotiations between Turkey and Armenia, which have been attempting to resume normal diplomatic relations. The Turkish ambassador that was recalled said that the vote would have "drastic effects" on the negotiations, and it would have an impact for some time.

The Swedish vote came not long after a similar vote by a US Congressional panel, which also approved a resolution with similar terminology, leading to the removal of Turkey's ambassador. In that case, the US government has been trying to prevent the resolution from going further, in an attempt to limit the consequences of the vote.


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