Turkey says Israeli motion to recognize WWI events as genocide will harm Israel

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A motion by Israeli lawmakers to recognize the killing of many Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I as genocide will harm Israel itself, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said on Friday, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

“Such an attempt by Israel is disrespect toward members of Ottoman religious and ethnic groups who lost their lives in World War I. Jews were among them,” Aksoy said at a press conference.

“The fact that Israel sees the events of 1915 and the Holocaust as the same will hurt Israel first,” Aksoy said, adding that the issue should be discussed by historians and legal experts.

Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday approved a motion to hold a plenary debate on recognizing the Armenian genocide as relations between Israel and Turkey continue their downward spiral.

Ahead of the vote on holding the debate, Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing opposition Meretz party said the timing of her motion had nothing to do with the rise in tensions with Turkey.

“Time and again this issue has fallen victim to political disputes. Not recognizing the Armenian genocide is a moral stain on Israel,” Zandberg said.

A plenary discussion “would be a significant measure to the moral message Israel is sending the entire world,” she said.

The motion was approved 16-0, although a date for the plenary discussion has not yet been set.

Meretz has since 1989 has sought recognition of the mass killings of Armenians beginning in 1915 as genocide, with successive Israeli governments rejecting the efforts because of ties with Turkey.

Violence on the Gaza border that resulted in the deaths of at least 60 Palestinians last week and the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to lash out at Israel, accusing it of “state terror” and “genocide.”

Ankara recalled its ambassador to Israel before expelling the Israeli envoy and consul general, with Israel also ordering the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I but says the figures are inaccurate and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated. It rejects use of the term “genocide” and says many Muslim Turks were also killed at the time.

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