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Germany dodges Pope's Armenian 'genocide' claims

Berlin says debate around events of 1915 should be resolved by historians

13.04.2015
Germany dodges Pope's Armenian 'genocide' claims

BERLIN

The German government on Monday called for historians to ascertain the facts surrounding the deportation of Armenians during World War I.

Deputy government spokeswoman Christaine Wirtz said Germany would not intervene in the debate around the events of 1915 after Pope Francis referred to the deaths of Armenians as “genocide.”

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Wirtz said: “This is a question that the German federal government would not intervene [in]. It is a question that should be dealt with historians and experts.”

Turkey and Armenia dispute what happened, with Armenia claiming that 1.5 million were deliberately killed and Turkey saying the deaths were not genocide but a result of deportations and civil strife.

Wirtz added: “I would not put myself into the position of a referee and decide which historical assessment is the right one.”

The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted against the empire.

The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the relocation process.

The Turkish government has repeatedly called on historians to study Ottoman archives to uncover what happened, as the issue continues to sour relations between Ankara and Yerevan and the Armenian diaspora.

Turkey's official position is that it acknowledges the events were a great tragedy and that both sides suffered heavy casualties. It refutes the use of the term “genocide” to describe what happened.

In 2014,  the then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences for the first time to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the events of 1915.

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