- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The Armenian quest for Turkey’s admission that it massacred ethnic Armenians nearly a century ago has suffered a setback with an EU decision to drop the historic “guilt clause” as a requirement for EU membership.

The European Parliament’s action last week was merely consultative, but nonetheless was seen as a considerable blow to Armenian hopes.

A member of the Armenian diaspora in Cyprus said the community would never give up its struggle to obtain international recognition of “genocide” applying to the World War I deaths of more than 1 million Turkish Armenians, starved, shot or bayoneted during a forced “resettlement” march across the desert to Syria.

Some Armenians feel that the dropping of the proposed precondition paragraph by the EU parliamentarians was influenced by governments pushing for Muslim Turkey’s EU membership.

Canada’s reference to the Armenian “genocide” and the French plan to penalize those who deny it caused a crisis earlier this year in relations between the two countries and Turkey.

The issue appeared to have been shelved after Turkey threatened “irreparable damage,” particularly in its relations with France, Turkey’s major economic partner but also home to an influential Armenian diaspora of more than 200,000.

Turkey has systematically rejected efforts to blame it for the massacres perpetrated by the collapsing Ottoman regime that preceded modern Turkey.

Ankara’s official version is that some 300,000 Armenians died in 1915-17 because of war, disease, famine and ethnic conflict rather than as a result of any policy of ethnic extermination.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described efforts to add the admission of Turkish guilt into official membership requirements as a violation of EU rules.

“We do not ask for privileges from the EU, but putting forward new criteria is unacceptable to us,” Mr. Erdogan said recently.

Ottoman Turkey, at war with Russia during World War I, accused its Armenian community of pro-Russian sympathies and of acting as the enemy’s “fifth column.”

The international campaign for admission of Turkey’s guilt is spearheaded by the Armenian diaspora of some 2 million rather than by the former Soviet republic of Armenia with a population of more than 3 million.

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