Greek Cyprus on Thursday made it a crime to deny that the Ottomans committed genocide against Armenians a century ago, a move that has been criticized by Turkey for limiting freedom of expression on the divided island where reunification talks were suspended in October.
The Greek Cypriot parliament passed a resolution penalizing the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, modifying existing legislation that required prior conviction by an international court to make denial a crime.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said Armenia would not gain anything from "propaganda against Turkey."
Armenians will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1915 incidents, which they term as genocide, on April 24. It also accelerated its efforts in the international arena to make countries accept the incidents as genocide. It has, however, received little support thus far. Yet countries like Norway and Australia openly said they will not attend the ceremonies in the Armenian capital of Yerevan and avoided Armenian pressure to officially define the incidents as genocide. "The purpose of this campaign against Turkey is to treat our country as an enemy instead of keeping Armenians' sorrow alive," Erdoğan said as he called on Armenians to study archives pertaining to the era in order to uncover what actually happened between the Ottoman government and its Armenian subjects.
The president said Armenia never answered Turkey's call to study the archives, adding, "You cannot gain anything from the propaganda against Turkey with bribing countries, immoral ways and lobbying." He claimed that the purpose was not to find the truth, but to damage and attack Turkey, adding: "We do not have to account to anyone on this issue. If we pursue our nation's 100, 150 years of sorrow we can find more than Armenian allegations." Not just Armenians were affected by the war, but hundreds of Muslims also, he added.
The debate on genocide and the differing opinions between the present-day Turkish government and the Armenian diaspora, along with the current administration in Yerevan, still generates political tension between Turks and Armenians.
Armenia claims up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in an act of genocide by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 during World War I. Turkey accepts that mass deaths of Armenians occurred during their forced deportation during the war, but claims the death toll was much lower and attributes mass deaths to disease and isolated cases of attacks. Ankara has also urged Armenia to let historians handle the matter, though Armenia demands recognition of the genocide in order to advance relations between the two neighboring countries.
During World War I, the Ottoman Empire approved a deportation law for Armenians amid an uprising with the help of the invading Russian army. As a result, an unknown number of people died in civil strife. Turkey's official position on the genocide allegations is that they acknowledge that the past experiences were a great tragedy and that both parties suffered heavy casualties, including many Muslim Turks. Turkey agrees that there were Armenian casualties during World War I, but that it is impossible to define these incidents as genocide.
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