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Britain accused of 'genocide denial' over Armenia
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 6:12 PM> Subject: >>> Britain accused of 'genocide denial' over Armenia> • Report says UK refuses to recognise 1915 massacre> • Turkish relations too vital to jeopardise, papers show>>> David Leigh>,> Tuesday 3 November 2009 22.51 GMT>>> Britain was accused of "genocide denial" today after the disclosure of> Foreign Office documents revealing the government's refusal to> recognise the so-called Armenian massacre of 1915, in which up to a> million people died.>> The documents, dating back over the last 15 years, say Anglo-Turkish> relations are too important to be jeopardised by the issue because> "Turkey is neuralgic and defensive about the charge of genocide".>> One Foreign Office briefing for ministers conceded that the British> government "is open to criticism in terms of the ethical dimension",> but goes on to say: "The current line is the only feasible option"> owing to "the importance of our relations (political, strategic and> commercial) with Turkey". The 1999 briefing said: "Recognising the> genocide would provide no practical benefit to the UK.">> Britain's stance, stretching back over Labour and Tory administrations,> was called a cynical "genocide denial" by Geoffrey Robertson, the QC> who served as first president of the UN war crimes court for Sierra> Leone. Robertson was commissioned by Armenian expatriate groups in> London to review the foreign office files, obtained in heavily redacted> form from freedom of information requests. He published a report today> which says: "Parliament has been routinely misinformed by ministers who> have recited FCO briefs without questioning their accuracy.">> The allegation that the Armenian massacres during the first world war> were a form of genocide, carried out by the Ottoman empire, is a> bitterly contested issue that has soured relations between Turkey and> Armenia. The border between the two countries was re-opened last month> after being closed since 1993, thanks to an accord which includes a> promise to set up a commission of historians to re-examine the affair.> Turkish and Armenian parliaments still have to ratify the accord.>> The Foreign Office documents include advice in 1995 to the then Tory> foreign minister, Douglas Hogg, that he should refuse to attend a> memorial service for the victims, and attempts to encourage the idea> that historians were in disagreement over the facts. The government> refused to include the Armenian massacres as part of holocaust memorial> day.>> Robertson's report says: "There is no doubt that in 1915 the Ottoman> government ordered the deportation of up to 2 million Armenians …> hundreds of thousands died en route from starvation, disease, and armed> attack.">> The1948 genocide convention was drawn up with the specific case of the> Armenians in mind, he says, and most scholars and European parliaments> have described their fate as genocide. "But recent British governments> … have resolutely refused to do so," resorting instead, he says, to the> legally meaningless expression that "insufficiently unequivocal> evidence" of genocide exists.>> Britain is a keen supporter of Turkey's attempts to join the EU. But> the Armenian question has become a touchstone for critics, who argue> that Turkey should not be allowed into the EU until it admits the truth> about its past. Turkey refuses to allow any of its citizens to call the> Armenian massacres genocide. When Nobel prize-winning writer Orhan> Pamuk did so, he was charged with "insulting Turkishness" in 2005,> although the justice ministry refused to let a trial proceed, following> an embarrassing international outcry.>> Three scholars, Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar, and a> journalist, Ali Bayramoglu, published an open letter, inviting Turks to> sign an online petition supporting its sentiments. It reads: "My> conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial> of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to> in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathise with the> feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologise to them.">> But while academics edge towards openness, Robertson says Britain's> official policy has merely been "to evade truthful answers, because the> truth would discomfort the Turkish government"

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