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Turkey protests Germany’s recognition of Armenian ‘genocide’

Demonstrators hold a Turkish flag in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Wednesday to protest a resolution of the German Bundestag on the Armenian "genocide" a century ago. (Michael Sohn/AP)

The German Parliament recognized the Armenian "genocide" on Thursday, drawing harsh criticism from the Turkish government, which withdrew its ambassador to Germany "for consultations" after the parliamentary vote.

The massacres and deportations of 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 has been described as a genocide by more than 20 nations, including Germany's neighbor France.

Turkey has disputed the death toll and refuses to acknowledge the violence as a genocide. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was quoted as saying that the German resolution was "ridiculous." He had previously called the parliamentary vote a "test of friendship" between the two countries.

Despite those comments by leading Turkish officials, however, German lawmakers nearly unanimously voted to adopt the resolution to recognize the massacre as a genocide. Only one MP, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, voted against it.

Is this genocide? What four Americans saw happening to Armenians 100 years ago

Norbert Lammert, the president of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament,  called the surprisingly clear decision "remarkable." Lammert said that the current Turkish government was not responsible for what had happened more than a century ago, but he also urged Turkey to nevertheless reappraise the past. The Turkish government "is jointly responsible for [how the matter is handled] in the future," Lammert said.

Cem Özdemir, a leader of Germany's Green Party and one of the resolution's initiators, said that its adoption was not supposed to "point fingers at others."

"Instead, we acknowledge our own partial responsibility [for the genocide]," said Özdemir. In 1915, the German Empire was an ally of the Ottoman Empire and failed to condemn the violence.

Although Germany is neither the first nor the only country to oppose Turkey's assessment on that matter, the decision could have far-reaching consequences. Europe recently negotiated a refugee deal with Turkey that has helped reduce the influx of migrants. Merkel was credited for having been the driving force behind that deal. Hence, damages to Turkish-German relations could come at a political cost for Merkel and much of Europe.

On Thursday, hundreds of Turks protested against the resolution in front of the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, highlighting another potential fallout of the parliamentary recognition.

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There are about 1.5 million Turks living in Germany, more than anywhere else apart from Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has frequently been criticized for deliberately setting a political agenda of Turks living in Germany and provoking tensions.

Turkish citizens were invited to move to Germany as “guest workers" starting in the 1960s. Back then, the central European nations were in an economic boom, and Germany lacked workers to fill vacancies.

What is particular about Turks living in Germany is that despite their assimilation in that nation, they still hold voting rights in Turkey. Two years ago, Germany allowed Turkey to set up voting boots in Germany for the Turkish presidential elections for the first time.

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