THE HAGUE — The Dutch parliament is set to adopt a motion Thursday formally recognizing the 1915 massacres in Armenia as “genocide,” in a vote likely to ratchet up already strained relations with Turkey.
The Christian Union (CU) party, a conservative junior coalition partner in Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party government, “will propose two motions to the lower house with the support of the coalition parties,” CU MP Joel Voordewind said.
The first motion proposes “that parliament in no uncertain terms speak about the Armenian genocide,” Voordewind told AFP.
The second motion will ask the cabinet “to send a representative to Yerevan on April 24 for the commemoration of the Armenian genocide and then once every five years,” he said.
Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead.
Turkey — the Ottoman Empire’s successor state — argues that it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died.
Ankara vehemently rejects the term “genocide,” saying up to 500,000 died when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian troops in World War I.
So far, parliaments in more than 20 countries, including Germany, have voted for laws or resolutions explicitly recognizing the Armenian “genocide.”
“For years, official Dutch government policy has been not to speak of ‘the Armenian genocide’ but of ‘the question of the Armenian genocide’,” said Erik-jan Zurcher, professor of Turkish studies at Leiden University.
“Thereby the Dutch government is indicating that it’s a case over which there still is historical debate,” he told AFP.
“The Netherlands implicitly wants to keep relations with Turkey intact by suggesting that it’s a question over which there is no consensus.”
Zurcher said despite the high chance the motion will be adopted by a majority vote on Thursday, he believed it was unlikely to become official government policy.
“I expect that the Dutch government will continue its current policy… and will continue to say that this remains a matter between Ankara and Yerevan to be resolved.”
If the government agreed to adopt the wording officially it would lead to “a deep diplomatic crisis between the Netherlands and Turkey,” Zurcher added.
Relations between the two nations are already at an all-time low, with the Dutch government withdrawing its ambassador from Turkey earlier this month, and saying it will refuse an envoy from Ankara.
Ties have deteriorated since Dutch officials barred two Turkish ministers from attending a rally in Rotterdam on the eve of Dutch general elections last March.