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050502|Swissinfo|Swiss-Turkey relations under strain again
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Swiss-Turkey relations under strain again over Armenian genocide

Swissinfo web site, Bern
2 May 05

Text of report in English by Swiss Radio International's Swissinfo
web site on 2 May

Turkey has criticized a decision by justice authorities in the canton
of Zurich to investigate a Turkish historian for allegedly denying
the 1915 Armenian massacre.

The move comes shortly after relations between the two countries -
which had been dogged by the Armenian question - appeared to have
stabilized.

The row centres on comments made a year ago by Yusuf Halacoglu, the
president of the Turkish History Organization, in Winterthur in the
canton of Zurich.

During the talk, given at the invitation of the Turkish community,
the prominent historian is said to have denied that the killings of
hundreds of thousands of Armenians was genocide.

Armenians say around 1.8m people were killed. Turkey disputes this,
putting the figure closer to 200,000.

Winterthur's investigating magistrate is now reported to be looking
into claims that Halacoglu could have broken Swiss anti-racism
legislation.

Condemnation

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper
on Monday [2 May] that the decision by Zurich and some European
parliaments to "forbid the rejection of the Armenian genocide" was a
"terrible mistake".

Gul added that Zurich's investigation was also against the European
Agreement on Human Rights and that Europe was "trampling on its own
foundations" by stopping the freedom of expression.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it had summoned the
Swiss ambassador to Turkey, Walter Gyger, to explain the move. The
Turkish embassy in the Swiss capital, Bern, has also protested to
the Swiss government.

It added, however, that Bern and Ankara were "closely collaborating"
and that Switzerland had been cooperative.

But a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry denied that a warrant
had been issued for Halacoglu's arrest via Interpol, as was reported
in some Turkish media.

Winterthur's prosecuting magistrate Andrej Gnehm also said on Monday
that he had asked Interpol to provide him with some information about
the historian.

He added that he would like to interview Halacoglu, which could also
take the form of written replies, to decide whether to go further
with the investigation - still at its early stages.

Tensions

The row comes at a time when relations between the two countries
appeared to be calming down after a period marked by tensions over
the Armenian question.

First Vaud's local parliament voted to recognize the Armenian genocide,
which led Ankara to withdraw an invitation to Swiss Foreign Minister
Micheline Calmy-Rey to visit Turkey in September 2003.

A similar vote on the Armenian matter by the House of Representatives
three months later drew fresh condemnation from Turkey.

Calmy-Rey finally made the trip to Ankara at the end of March this
year, which resulted in the two countries agreeing to disagree over
the Armenian issue.

And last month the way was cleared for Switzerland to begin selling
arms to Turkey for the first time since 1992 when it introduced tight
restrictions on exports to the country.

The Turkish government ended it embargo on Swiss arms on April 28,
one month after Switzerland lifted its boycott.

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