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12 Mar, 2010 09:01

Turkish PM cancels visit after Sweden recognizes Armenian genocide

Ankara has recalled its Ambassador to Stockholm and canceled the planned visit of Prime Minister Erdogan, after the Swedish parliament adopted a resolution recognizing the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.

The controversial document was sponsored by the opposition in the Swedish parliament and was opposed by the government. The resolution was adopted by a small margin, with 131 MPs in favor, 130 against and 88 more abstaining.

After the vote, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said he regretted the decision.

“It’s not right politicizing history. By this, Sweden hurts the chances for reconciliation,” he said in an interview to TT news agency. “I’m afraid now it will be used by those opposing reforms in Turkey and those opposing normalization of relations in Armenia”.

Meanwhile, Turkish officials did not take much time to react harshly to the news. Ankara has cancelled the visit of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Sweden, which was planned for March 17, and recalled the Turkish ambassador.

“Our people and government reject this decision based on false data and the lack of any basis,” Erdogan commented.

An official statement by his administration said the Swedish parliament’s decision was dictated by domestic politics in the Scandinavian country and the election scheduled for September.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul suggested dismissing the resolution as irrelevant: “We know how such decisions are taken. We don’t care about them.” Gul added that the sponsors of such documents were people with lowly motives and no respect for history.

The development mirrors the events of last week, when the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives adopted a similar document. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on legislators not to support the draft resolution when it is debated in the Congress, while Turkey also recalled its ambassador to the US.

Last year, Turkey and Armenia showed progress in overcoming the rift, which has gone on for almost a century. The border has been opened between the two countries, and both governments have made steps towards a settlement.

The oppression of Armenian residents in Ottoman Empire in 1910s has an estimated death toll of up to 1.5 million people, who allegedly died through neglect and violence. Many governments and organizations, including 42 individual states in the USA, the European Parliament, Russia, France, Germany and the Vatican, among others, consider the events as genocide. Turks have always rejected the accusations and opposed moves for their international recognition.