German resolution on Armenia genocide risks derailing Turkey migrant deal

German resolution on Armenia genocide risks derailing Turkey migrant deal
Armenians remembering the reported 1.5mn killed in 1915 at the memorial in Yerevan.
By bne IntelliNews June 2, 2016

Germany's parliament has approved a resolution that declares the killings of Armenians at the end of Ottoman rule a genocide, a move that is likely to damage relations between Ankara and Berlin and may have wider consequences for the implementation of the EU migrant deal. Ankara has immediately recalled its ambassador to Berlin for consultations.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this week warned that the bill would damage bilateral economic, political and military relations, while Prime Minister Binali Yildirim dismissed the German vote on the Armenian genocide as irrational.

The German vote places the country’s chancellor Angela Merkel, who was not in parliament for the vote, between a rock and a hard place. Merkel is one of the architects of the EU migrant deal that she firmly believes will help Europe control the flow of refugees.

Now, Merkel has to explain the Bundestag’s move to Erdogan, who has already taken a tougher and more sceptical approach towards the EU and the migrant accord. The genocide resolution will definitely provoke a backlash from Ankara, which is already accusing the EU of failing to deliver on its promise of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, part of the refugee agreement.

The move may also cause tensions between Germans and the some 3mn Turks living there. Ahead of the vote, German MPs came under pressure from Turks, including threatening and abusive e-mails, according to German ARD news reports.

Angry words should be expected from Erdogan but the big question is whether he could take the risk of escalating tension with Germany and the EU. Germany is Turkey’s largest export market and hundreds of German companies are doing business in Turkey. Erdogan may harden his anti-German, and anti-EU rhetoric to appease his domestic audience in the short term but will avoid moves that may deeply damage relations with the West.

“Simply put Merkel at this stage has too much to lose, and Erdogan so much to gain from still working to keep this deal on track. Erdogan will extract extra leverage from developments this week, and Merkel will have to work that much harder to keep Erdogan on side”, Tim Ash at Nomura said in an emailed comment ahead of the German vote.

Just like Ash had predicted, Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Germany for consultations. The government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said the German resolution is “null and void” for Turkey.

“Eleven of the twenty-eight EU member states have seen their parliaments pass similar resolutions, including France therein. And after some short term strains, France has managed to get relations with Turkey back to some kind of normality. I expect a similar outcome for Turkey - German relations,” Ash added.

German officials told Reuters that Erdogan has a strong interest in making the migrants deal work and will not allow this to get in the way.

Armenia welcomed the resolution, according to Reuters. The foreign ministry said Turkish authorities "are continuing to obstinately reject the undeniable fact of genocide", the news agency reported.

Turkey acknowledges that Armenians were killed during the first world war but it says that the mass deaths were part of a conflict and Turks were also killed. Armenians argue that up to 1.5mn Armenians were killed in 1915. Turkey has always disputed this figure and it claims that the killings of Armenians did not amount to genocide.