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Syrian Parliament Recognizes Armenian Killings As Genocide

Armenians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Turkish soldiers in Kharpert in the Ottoman Empire in April 1915.

The Syrian parliament says it has recognized the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a century ago as genocide, amid heightened tensions with neighboring Turkey following deadly clashes in northwestern Syria.

Members of the People's Assembly have unanimously adopted a resolution condemning and recognizing "the genocide committed against the Armenians by the Ottoman state at the start of the 20th century," the legislature said on its website on February 13.

More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Syria prior to the country's civil war. Many of them have fled, including thousands to Armenia.

Syria's parliament is composed entirely of supporters of President Bashar al-Assad's government who were elected in a 2016 election, when war prevented most of the people in the country from voting. it is not recognized by the Syrian opposition.

In response, Turkey decried Damascus's "hypocrisy" over the vote.

During and immediately after World War I, Ottoman Turks killed or deported as many as 1.5 million Armenians -- a Christian minority in the predominately Muslim empire. Many historians and some other nations consider the killings genocide.

Turkey, a NATO member, objects to the use of the word genocide to describe the killings. Ankara claims the deaths were a result of civil strife rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate Armenians. Turkey also claims fewer Armenians died than has been reported.

At least 23 countries have officially recognized the mass slaughter and deportation as genocide, triggering the ire of Ankara.

Last year, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions recognizing the tragedy as genocide. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian expressed his "gratitude" on behalf of the Armenian people.

Syria's move comes after weeks of tensions between Ankara and Damascus over a Russia-backed Syrian government military offensive in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib -- the last major bastion of opposition in the country.

Ankara says deadly clashes in Idlib between the two sides has killed 14 Syrian soldiers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on February 12 said his country would do "whatever necessary" to push Syrian forces back.

With reporting by AFP
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