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Swiss-Turkish relations hit new low

Perinçek in front of Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, at a rally in Lausanne last weekend

(Keystone)

Turkey should recognise the Armenian genocide and stop blackmailing Switzerland, says Swiss parliamentarian Erwin Jutzet.

Meanwhile, the Swiss ambassador in Ankara has had to defend himself against a barrage of criticism concerning the Swiss investigation of a Turkish politician.

"Turkey has to stop reacting so sensitively to such events," Jutzet, the president of the House of Representatives’ foreign-policy commission, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Wednesday.

"It would do better to recognise once and for all the genocide of the Armenians."

On Tuesday Turkey presented a protest note to the Swiss ambassador in Ankara and the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern. The note concerned the investigation of a Turkish politician on suspicion of violating Swiss anti-racism laws.

Doğu Perinçek, leader of Turkey’s Workers’ Party, has twice denied that the killings of Armenians around the time of the First World War amounted to genocide. He is the subject of two criminal investigations.

Jutzet said it was up to Turkey to make a move "instead of always taking offence and resorting to blackmail".

He added that the constant denial of genocide could have ramifications for Turkey’s much sought-after entry into the European Union.

"If Switzerland were to turn its back on Turkey, it would be a bad sign for EU entry," he said.

Ambassadors

On Wednesday the Swiss ambassador in Ankara, Walter Gyger, was told in no uncertain terms about Turkey’s dissatisfaction concerning the Perinçek investigation.

Gyger countered by pointing to Switzerland’s anti-racism laws and the strict separation of judicial and political powers.

Under Swiss law any act of denying, belittling or justifying genocide is a violation of the country’s anti-racism laws.

The Turkish ambassador in Bern, Alev Kiliç, was due to meet the relevant representatives from the Swiss foreign ministry on Thursday.

The press attaché at the Turkish embassy in Bern, Sibel Gal, told swissinfo: "This has caused discomfort and disappointment in Turkey, and such a measure falls short of freedom of speech and expression which is one of the most fundamental human rights."

"It’s even more regrettable that this was launched by the authorities in a friendly country whose reputation for upholding human rights is well known."

Gal added that Perinçek's views "reflected historical facts based on scientific and academic findings of events during the First World War at the easterm front of the Ottoman empire".

Questioning

The public prosecutor in Winterthur questioned Perinçek on Saturday for more than two hours after a news conference he gave on Friday in Glattbrugg, near Zurich.

In the speech honouring the 82nd anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, which fixed the borders of modern-day Turkey, Perinçek called claims of genocide against the Armenians an imperialist lie, authorities said.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, described Saturday’s questioning as "unacceptable" and "absolutely contrary to the principle of free speech".

"Do these actions suit a country like Switzerland?" he asked.

On Sunday Perinçek repeated his denial of the Armenian genocide at celebrations attended by about 2,000 Turks near the Beau-Rivage hotel, scene of the treaty negotiations.

The House of Representatives has recognised as genocide the expulsion and massacre of more than a million Armenians, but the government has not.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Armenians say between 800,000 and 1.8 million of their people were killed or deported by the Ottoman Empire from 1915-18.
Turkey disputes this, saying there were killings on both sides.
There are 80,000 Turks living in Switzerland and 6,000 people with Armenian roots.
In 2004, Swiss exports to Turkey were worth SFr1.9 billion ($1.5 billion), 17% more than in 2003.

end of infobox

In brief

Turkey is upset at the detention and questioning of a Turkish politician suspected of having violated Swiss anti-racism laws.

During meetings in Switzerland, Doğu Perinçek offered revisionist views about the Armenian genocide.

The historical interpretation of the death of between 800,000 and 1,800,000 between 1915 and 1918 has caused tension between Bern and Ankara for years.

end of infobox


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