Dutch MPs vote to recognise disputed Armenian 'genocide'

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Media captionArmenia's mass killings - explained in 60 seconds

The Dutch parliament has passed a motion recognising that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One was a "genocide".

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people died in the atrocities of 1915. Turkey says the toll was much lower and rejects the term "genocide".

The move is likely to heighten Dutch-Turkish tensions at a time when they are already strained.

Turkey condemned the vote, saying it was not valid or legally binding.

"The politicisation of 1915 events by taking them out of historical context is unacceptable," a spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry said.

Only three Dutch MPs opposed the motion, which includes sending a cabinet-level representative to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, for a commemoration event in April.

But the government has stressed that it will not change the Netherlands' official policy.

"The government will not follow the judgment of the parliament," Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told Dutch television before the vote.

"This cabinet wants to be very careful about relations with Turkey, which have been better," she added.

The two Nato allies fell out last year over the Netherlands' decision to block the entry of Turkish officials who wanted to hold rallies ahead of a referendum in Turkey on expanding the president's powers.

Since then, relations have deteriorated and earlier this month the Netherlands formally withdrew its ambassador to Turkey.

The vote in parliament is unlikely to alleviate these tensions, but other countries have tabled similar motions in the past.

More than 20 nations, including France and Russia, as well as Pope Francis, have recognised the 1915 killings as genocide.

Turkey denies that there was a systematic campaign to slaughter Armenians as an ethnic group during World War One. It also points out that many Turkish civilians died in the turmoil during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Armenian genocide dispute

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Image caption Arguments have raged for decades about the Armenian deaths in 1915-16
  • Hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians died in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, whose empire was disintegrating
  • Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren desert regions where they died of starvation and thirst. Thousands also died in massacres
  • Armenia says up to 1.5 million people were killed. Turkey says the number of deaths was much smaller
  • Most non-Turkish scholars of the events regard them as genocide - as do more than 20 states including France, Germany and Russia, and some international bodies such as the European Parliament
  • Turkey rejects the term "genocide", maintaining that many of the dead were killed in clashes during World War One, and that many ethnic Turks also suffered in the conflict

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