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Turkey Summons Dutch Envoy, 'Fiercely' Condemns' Armenia Genocide Vote

The World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks is a highly sensitive issue in both Armenia and Turkey. (file photo)

Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the top Dutch envoy in the country on February 23, a day after lawmakers in the Netherlands voted to recognize the mass killing of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I as "genocide," the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu reported.

It was the second time in a week that Erik Weststrate, the Dutch charge d'affaires to Ankara, was summoned. He had also been called to the ministry last week as it became clear Dutch lawmakers planned to move ahead with the recognition.

Turkey "fiercely" condemned the resolution -- which received overwhelming support from Dutch lawmakers, with only three lawmakers voting against it -- saying it has "no legal binding character or validity," Anadolu reported.

Dutch lawmakers also passed a separate resolution calling for a government representative to be sent in April to Armenia's capital, Yerevan, for commemorations of the victims.

The World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks is a highly sensitive issue in both Armenia and Turkey.

Armenia says it is one of the first examples of genocide in modern history, predating the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany against more than 6 million Jews during World War II.

Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned, systemic effort by the Ottoman government against the Christian minority.

At least 23 countries, including France and Germany, recognize the killings as "genocide."

Relations between the Netherlands and Turkey are rocky. The two NATO allies do not have ambassadors posted to each other's capitals.

The Dutch government banned Turkish politicians from entering the country to conduct election rallies aimed at Turkish expatriates in the Netherlands in March 2017, ahead of a referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Meanwhile, the Armenian Foreign Ministry welcomed the Dutch vote, saying: "With this step, [the] parliament of the Netherlands once again reconfirmed its commitment to universal human values and the noble cause of prevention of genocides and crimes against humanity."

Earlier on February 22, Dutch acting Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said the government would not follow the lawmakers' lead in recognizing the killings as genocide.

Kaag said the cabinet will "continue to exercise restraint" in the issue and continue to discuss "the question of the Armenian genocide."

Kaag also said an official representative would be sent to the commemoration ceremony in Yerevan on April 24, but insisted that it was not a sign that the Dutch government recognizes the massacre of Armenians as genocide.

"This cabinet wants to be very careful about relations with Turkey, which have been better," she said in comments before the vote.

With reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, and Reuters
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