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Syria’s parliament recognizes Armenian genocide

Tensions between Damascus and Ankara have been running high after deadly clashes in northwest Syria

Members of the Armenian community march with flags and torches on April 23, 2015, in Jerusalem's Old City, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. (photo credit: AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Members of the Armenian community march with flags and torches on April 23, 2015, in Jerusalem's Old City, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915. (photo credit: AFP/Gali Tibbon)

Syria’s parliament Thursday recognized the 1915-1917 murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, as tensions run high with Turkey after deadly clashes in northwest Syria.

“The parliament… condemns and recognizes the genocide committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman state at the start of the twentieth century,” the legislature said in a statement.

The Armenians seek international recognition that the mass killings of their people under the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917 amounted to genocide. They say 1.5 million died.

Turkey strongly denies the accusation of genocide and says that both Armenians and Turks died as a result of World War I. It puts the death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

Michael Zakarian organizes archive photographs of the Armenian Genocide, for an exhibition at the Armenian Seminary, on April 15, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The move comes after weeks of tensions between Ankara and Damascus over deadly clashes between the two sides in northwest Syria that Ankara says has killed 14 of its soldiers.

Russia-backed government forces have since December upped their deadly bombardment of the last major bastion of opposition in northwest Syria, where Ankara supports the rebels and has deployed troops.

The offensive on the jihadist-dominated Idlib has also forced 700,000 people from their homes toward the closed Turkish border, the United Nations says.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday threatened to strike Syrian government forces “everywhere” if its soldiers come under renewed attack. Damascus hit back that he was “disconnected from reality.”

Beyond Idlib, Turkey and its proxies have conducted three operations in Syria against both the Islamic State group and Kurdish fighters it views as “terrorists.”

After the last incursion, Turkey set up a so-called “safe zone” in a 120-kilometer (70-mile) strip inside Syrian territory along its southern border.

Parliaments in nearly 30 countries have passed laws, resolutions or motions recognizing the genocide.

The US Congress in December recognized the mass killings as genocide, angering Turkey. US President Donald Trump’s administration said it did not agree.

“The position of the Administration has not changed,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a terse two-sentence statement last December. “Our views are reflected in the president’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.”

After Congress recognized the genocide, Israeli lawmakers called for Jerusalem to do likewise but made little headway on the issue because of opposition from the ruling Likud party.

Syria’s own human rights record has come under harsh condemnation in recent years. Last month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country, said that almost nine years of civil war in Syria had left more than 380,000 people dead including over 115,000 civilians.

The conflict flared after unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa on March 15, 2011.

Demonstrations spread across Syria and were brutally suppressed by the regime, triggering a multi-front armed conflict that has drawn in jihadists and foreign powers.

The conflict has displaced or sent into exile around 13 million Syrians, causing billions of dollars’ worth of destruction.

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