Germany finds compromise label for Armenians' massacre centenary

Armenians have long sought for international recognition of the massacres and now Germany has proposed a compromise.

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Germany will condemn the massacre a century ago of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces, linking it to 20th century “genocides” for the first time, according to a draft parliamentary resolution hammered out Monday.

After weeks of debate in Berlin and pressure by opposition deputies to adopt the term “genocide” to describe the mass killings 100 years on, German lawmakers drew up a compromise formulation to be debated on Friday.

The measure blames the Ottoman Empire for ordering “the organized expulsion and extermination of more than a million ethnic Armenians”.

“Their fate exemplifies the history of the mass murders, ethnic cleansing campaigns, expulsions, indeed the genocides that marked the 20th century in such a horrible way,” according to the draft obtained by AFP.

“At the same time, we are aware of the uniqueness of the Holocaust for which Germany bears the guilt and responsibility”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that the government supports the draft.

The issue has provoked an emotional debate in Germany due to the then German empire's tacit support of the Ottoman campaign in 1915 and the Nazis' subsequent slaughter of six million Jews during World War II.

The issue is complicated by Germany's close ties with modern Turkey and its own three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart and have long sought to win international recognition of the massacres as genocide.

Modern Turkey, the successor state to the Ottomans, rejects the claim, arguing that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

The presidents of Russia and France -- two of nearly two dozen countries to formally recognize the genocide -- are to join a handful of world leaders attending a commemoration of the massacre in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Friday.

Germany plans to send a junior foreign minister to the event.

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