The Dutch parliament on Thursday passed a motion recognizing the massacre of as many as 1,5 million Armenians in 1915 during the final days of the Ottoman Empire as genocide, although the Dutch government said it would not become the official policy of the country.
The motion was passed with 142 votes, while only three votes of Turkish-founded Denk Party, which is believed to be affiliated with Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, opposed it.
Joel Voordewind, member of parliament from the coalition party Christian Union (CU), had put forward the motion. Also, a motion for representation of the Netherlands at the ministerial level at the commemorative ceremonies in the Armenian capital Yerevan on April 24 was also accepted by the majority.
The motion is likely to further strain relations between The Hague and Ankara, which have been tense since the Dutch barred a Turkish minister from campaigning in the Netherlands last year. Turkey denies that the killings, which took place at the height of World War I, constitute genocide.
“The government will not follow the judgment of the parliament,” Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told Dutch television before the vote. She urged “utmost caution when applying the term genocide to past events.” “This cabinet wants to be very careful about relations with Turkey, which have been better,” she said.
Meanwhile, it was announced that a member of the Dutch cabinet will attend the commemoration of the Armenian genocide in Yerevan in April. But that does not mean that the government is making a statement about whether what happened in 1915 was or was not a genocide, Minister Sigrid Kaag of Foreign Affairs said in the Tweede Kamer on Thursday, NOS reports.
According to Kaag, attending the commemoration is only about showing respect “for the terrible events of 1915” in a dignified manner. She compared it to a Minister attending the commemoration of the Netherlands’ slavery past. With this, the government is responding to a call from the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament.
It is not yet known which cabinet member will travel to Yerevan for the event. The Netherlands has sent lower ranking representatives in the past, such as a member of parliament or an ambassador.
Relations between the two countries, both members of NATO, went into a freeze last year when the Netherlands deported a Turkish minister who had come to campaign among the Dutch Turkish minority for a constitutional referendum in Turkey. Turkey summoned the Dutch charge d‘affaires to Ankara on Saturday to express its unhappiness with the impending vote on Armenia. Nearly a dozen other EU countries have passed similar resolutions.
Turkish government has strongly condemned the Dutch parliament’s motion recognizing Armenian “genocide” during 1915 events on Thursday. “We strongly condemn the decision of the Netherlands’ House of Representatives today to recognize the 1915 events as ‘genocide’,” Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Describing the Dutch parliament’s decision as “baseless”, the ministry said the decision has no place in either history or justice. “Therefore, it has no legal binding or validity,” it added. It further said “Turkey’s position regarding 1915 events is based on historical facts and principle of law.”
Turkish foreign ministry has also summoned the Dutch charge d‘affaires on Friday to complain about the Netherlands parliament recognizing the massacre of as many as 1,5 million Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
European Union Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik has also slammed Dutch parliament’s motion recognizing Armenian genocide on Friday. “What we expected from Dutch officials… is that they be more careful about these issues. This motion is null and void for us,” Çelik told reporters inAnkara.
Speaking to reporters in Antalya, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said the Dutch parliament’s motion was “nonbinding.” “The decision is nonbinding; it is a reflection of hostility against Islam,” Çavuşoğlu said.
The foreign minister said the term genocide is a legal term, not a political one, adding the UN already has a decision on whether genocide term should be used. “In the end, this decision has no validity for us, no validity in terms of international law, they only satisfied themselves [the Netherlands],” he added.
“The colonist Netherlands, whose history is full of persecutions and massacres, intends to show our ancestors as those who carry out massacres. This is shamelessness,” said Mehmet Muş, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy parliamentary group chairman, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.
“It should not be forgotten, the real perpetrator of massacres is the Netherlands’ colonist forces that killed thousands of people in Indonesia. The real supporter of massacre are the members of the Netherlands army who were onlookers during the genocide in Srebrenica,” Muş said. He was referring to the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys by units of the Bosnian Serb army in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman has also issued a statement. “As the Turkish Grand National Assembly, we can never accept this, we strongly condemn this and we will ignore the unjust decision of the Dutch parliament based on false charges related to the 1915 events in Ottoman Empire,” the statement said. It added the Dutch motion would not make any contribution to world or regional peace.
On Friday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Haciyev termed the Dutch move “prejudiced.” “Armenia, since early 1980s, has attacked Azerbaijan many times and repeatedly committed humanitarian crimes. We would like the Dutch parliament to share their reservations on the 1992 Khojaly massacre as well,” Haciyev said.
Turkey’s position on the events of 1915 is that deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 occurred after some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Ankara does not accept the “genocide”, but acknowledges there were casualties on both sides during World War I. Turkey has also objected to the presentation of the incidents as “genocide” but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides. Ankara has proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.
The crisis erupted between Ankara and The Hague last March when the Netherlands cancelled the flight clearance for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s airplane shortly after Çavuşoğlu warned that Turkey would impose “harsh sanctions” on the Netherlands if it were to take such a step. Çavuşoğlu was scheduled to fly to Rotterdam for a campaign rally for a public referendum last April.
The crisis escalated when Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya was expelled from the Netherlands after she insisted on going to the residence of the Turkish consul general in Rotterdam.
Back then, the Turkish government announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands, including halting high-level political discussions between the two countries and closing Turkish airspace to Dutch diplomats. Other sanctions barred the Dutch ambassador’s entry back into Turkey, and a Dutch-Turkish friendship group in the Turkish Parliament was dissolved. Talks to repair relations between the two countries have broken down and the Netherlands recalled its ambassador on Feb. 5.