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Turkey snubs Calmy-Rey over genocide decision

Turkey gives Calmy-Rey the cold shoulder Keystone Archive

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, will not be travelling to Turkey next week, after Ankara withdrew its invitation at the last minute.

This content was published on October 1, 2003 - 08:12

At the heart of the controversy is a decision by a Swiss cantonal parliament to officially recognise the killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.

The Swiss foreign ministry said that its ambassador to Turkey was informed that Calmy-Rey would no longer be welcome a week before the scheduled visit was due to take place.

Speaking to Swiss radio on Tuesday, Calmy-Rey said that the Turkish reaction to the decision by canton Vaud was "exaggerated".

She regretted that Turkey's step had "complicated bilateral relations" between the two countries.

The Swiss foreign minister had intended to arrive in Turkey next Monday and planned to spend two days in Ankara, Istanbul and the Kurdish region.

Ankara's hackles rose last week when Vaud became the second Swiss canton after Geneva to classify the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians as genocide.

Armenian deportations

From 1915-18 the Turkish authorities deported Armenians, whose land was divided between the Ottoman Empire and Russia, into the Mesopotamian desert.

The Turks feared that the Armenians would claim independence and that Christian Armenians would collaborate with Russia.

Some 1.5 million Armenians are said to have perished; Turkey disputes this, putting the figure closer to 200,000.

Turkey has warned Bern in the past about giving official recognition to the massacre.

In 2001 the Swiss parliament narrowly voted against calling the massacre a genocide, a charge that Turkey strenously denies.

Countries, including France and Belgium, have been calling the tragedy just that for a number of years.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Turkey has cancelled an invitation to the Swiss foreign minister at the last minute.

Ankara is upset that canton Vaud officially recognised an Armenian massacre in 1915 as genocide.

Some 1.5 million Armenians perished when the Turkish authorities deported them to the Mesopotamian desert during 1915-18.

Turkey denies any charge of genocide.

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