VIENNA — Austria became on Wednesday the latest country to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey, a First World War-era ally of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Austrian parliament approved a corresponding statement drafted by the parliamentary leaders of the country’s six main political parties after observing a minute of silence for up to 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks.
“April 24, 1915 marked the beginning of a policy of deportation and persecution, which ended in genocide,” parliament speaker Doris Bures said at a special session dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.
The parliamentary faction leaders stressed the importance of recognizing the Armenian massacres as genocide in their ensuing speeches delivered at the National Council.
The declaration authored by them reads, “Due to a historical responsibility — the Austro-Hungarian Empire was allied with the Ottoman Empire in the First World War — it is our duty to recognize the terrible events as genocide and condemn them.”
“It is also Turkey’s duty to face the dark and painful chapter of its past and recognize the crimes committed against Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide,” it says, echoing a resolution adopted by the European Parliament last week.
The statement also mentions hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians who were murdered on Ottoman government orders a century ago.
Armenia, whose ambassador in Vienna was present at the parliament session, was quick to welcome the declaration coming just two days before official ceremonies in Yerevan that will mark the centenary of the genocide. “With this step Austria has made an important contribution to the noble task of preventing genocides and other crimes against humanity,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement.
Turkey did not immediately react to the Austrian move. Ankara last week strongly condemned Pope Francis and the European Parliament for using the word genocide to honor the Armenians slaughtered during the First Word War.
Incidentally, the Austrian declaration cited and endorsed the statements made by Francis and the European Union’s legislative body.