The Australian parliament is being urged to follow Germany’s lead and recognise the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War One as genocide, SBS News reports.
The call comes from an Armenian-Australian community group, after the German parliament passed a resolution designating the deaths as the most serious of international crimes.
A Turkish community organisation, meanwhile, says Australia has no business taking a position on the issue.
The Bundestag voted overwhelmingly in support of recognising the Ottoman Turk massacre of Armenians starting in 1915 as genocide.
A resolution introduced to the parliament also acknowledged the German Empire, then an ally of the Ottomans, failed to act to prevent the deaths.
A group known as the Armenian National Committee of Australia says the vote sends a strong message to Turkey to come to terms with its history.
Executive Director Vache Kahramanian regards it as an important moment.
“The motion that was adopted in the German Bundestag is a very welcome development in the global efforts for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Germany, including the support of the German government, adopted a motion recognising the events of 1915 as a genocide. And this is the first time that Germany has formally put on record its condemnation of the events that occurred, and also took responsibility for its role in not preventing the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians by its ally, the Ottoman Empire, during that time.”
That number is disputed by Turkey, which says hundreds of thousands of people, and not only Armenians, were killed and subjected to what it calls ‘relocations’.
It also rejects the terminology “Armenian Genocide”, and has warned of possible further repercussions, after it recalled its ambassador from Germany to protest the resolution.
In Australia, one Turkish community group says the German parliament’s actions have undermined the possibility of reconcilliation and betterment of relations between Turkey and Armenia.
Australia isn’t among the more than 20 countries to officially adopt the term “Armenian Genocide” at a national level, as the parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia have done.
But the Armenian National Committee of Australia’s Vache Kahramanian believes there’s enough support on both sides of parliament for national recognition.
“Hopefully what Australia will now do is to now have the moral high ground and tell its ally and friend, the current republic of Turkey, that it needs to come to terms with its own history, and Australia should join the international community by recognising the events of 1915 as a genocide through a formal motion in the Australian parliament.”
In 2015, on the centenary of ANZAC World War One landings on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula – which coincided with commemoration of the “Armenian Genocide” – Australia would not commit an official representative to attend formal events in the Armenian capital Yerevan.
Declassified documents revealed by SBS showed that in the lead up, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was assuring the Turkish government there would be no change in Australia’s position.
That’s after the publication of comments in Australia and Turkey attributed to then Treasurer Joe Hockey, who is partially of Armenian descent, in which he allegedly upheld the need to acknowledge the “Armenian Genocide”.