Anger over events of nearly a century ago has prompted Turkey to cancel a top-level summit in Sweden next week, in the aftermath of a decision by the Swedish Parliament to declare the mass deaths of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide.
“We strongly condemn this resolution, which is made for political calculations,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who canceled his visit to Stockholm next Wednesday for a Sweden-Turkey summit. “It does not correspond to the close friendship of our two nations.”
“Those who think that historical facts and Turkey’s views of its own past will change with the decisions made on the basis of political interests of foreign parliaments are seriously deluded,” he said.
US, Swedish resolutions passed by one vote
Turkey recalled its ambassador from Stockholm on Thursday, just a week after recalling its envoy from Washington for consultations after the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a similar non-binding resolution.
Turkey disputes the term genocide for the deaths of up to 1.5 million Christian Armenians, and says both Armenians and Turks died during World War I fighting as the Ottoman Empire began to collapse.
The resolutions in both Sweden and the US congressional committee passed by just one vote, with some politicians strongly criticizing the move.
“Historical events should not be judged at the political level,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose coalition government opposed the genocide vote.
“The decision will not help the debate in Turkey, which has become increasingly open and tolerant as Turkey has developed closer relations with the European Union and made the democratic reforms these entail,” said Mr. Bildt, according to a Swedish government website.
Swedish trade with Turkey, while modest, has increased significantly over the past few years. According to the most recent data available from the Swedish Trade Council, exports to Turkey increased 20 percent from 2008 to 2009. Imports declined since 2008, but have stayed fairly steady over the past few years.
'Drastic effects' on bilateral relations
Turkey and Armenia have taken steps to normalize relations in the past year, and with fanfare presided over what was meant to be an opening of the border. In mutual trust-building measures, top officials from each side have also attended soccer matches in each others’ countries.
But the deal has not yet been approved by either government, and each side has accused the other of revising the terms. After the genocide vote in Washington, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said normalization efforts would be brought to a “standstill."
Turkey’s ambassador to Sweden, Zergun Koruturk, told a Swedish television channel that the vote would have “drastic effects” on bilateral relations, according to Reuters.
“I am very disappointed. Unfortunately, parliamentarians were thinking that they were rather historians than parliamentarians.”