Switzerland urges Turkey to ’face the past’ on Armenian question
ANKARA, March 29 (AFP) - 22h48 - Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Tuesday urged Turkey to carry out a detailed study of claims that millions of Armenians were the victims of genocide under Ottoman rule during World War I.
"We think that it is essential that every country conduct an in-depth historical research of its own past, especially when the question is so painful," Calmy-Rey told reporters after talks with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.
The Swiss minister was speaking on the first day of an official visit which was originally supposed to take place in 2003 but was cancelled after the Swiss canton of Vaud qualified as genocide the 1915 massacres of Armenians.
Shortly afterwards, the lower house of the Swiss parliament also followed suit -- against the Bern government’s advice -- and adopted a similar resolution, unleashing an angry response from Ankara.
The allegations of genocide "are unacceptable claims by the (Armenian diaspora) to continue its existence. Unfortunately, the diaspora sometimes poisons our ties with other countries for its own benefit," Gul said.
"Other countries must not allow this," he added.
Turkey categorically denies the Armenian allegations, but has recently faced increasing calls for it to accept the killings of Armenians as genocide.
In a counter-move, Turkey recently called for an unbiased study by historians, urging Armenia to also open up its own archives.
Calmy-Rey hailed the offer as a "good idea" and said she had proposed to Gul the inclusion of international experts in such a commission for the credibility of the work.
The massacres of Armenians during World War I is one of the most controversial episodes in Turkish history.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen were massacred in orchestrated killings nine decades ago during the last years of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.
Turkey, on the other hand, argues that 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in what was civil strife during World War I when the Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers.
The Swiss minister said that she had come to Turkey in a bid to deepen existing ties and that she would discuss prospects of increased cooperation, especially in the economic field, during her visit.
Calmy-Rey was scheduled to visit Turkey’s commercial capital Istanbul and the medieval-walled city of Diyarbakir in the mainly Kurdish southeast before leaving on Wednesday.