NZ reluctant to take sides over Armenian genocide


Germany has joined an ever-growing list of nations to officially recognise the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by Turkey during World War 1, but New Zealand continues to stay silent.

Turkey agrees that many Armenians died in ethnic fighting and estimates the casualties at around 300,000, but refuses to call it a genocide and doesn't accept the higher death toll.

Turkey's now recalled its ambassador to Germany, which voted overwhelmingly to join countries such as France, Russia and Canada in labelling the killings a genocide.

New Zealand is reluctant to take sides in the dispute because of fears it would disrupt Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey.

Armenians danced for joy outside Germany's parliament, when they heard the news.

In Turkey, an angry Prime Minister described Germany's decision as something his nation would never accept, before recalling Turkey's German ambassador home.

The political rift now threatens to strain military alliances in Europe.

"I think that it is important that we all support efforts to try to reduce tensions, and avoid any kind of escalation," says NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

No New Zealand government has ever officially recognised the Armenian Genocide over fears Turkey would ban Kiwis from visiting the Gallipoli battlefields.

Auckland based genocide expert Maria Amoudian finds that perplexing.

 "New Zealand is a really interesting case for political scientists like me, it's a country that has always stood out as being ethically at the forefront, morally at the forefront, always for an underdog, and caring about issues like human rights," she says.

"So it is a little bit baffling that on this one issue that it tends to shy away from even looking at it."

The Government told Newshub today that it considers historic issues between Armenia and Turkey are best left to those countries to work through.

The Greens are the only New Zealand political party that does recognise the Armenian genocide, and now they're in a coalition opposition with Labour, political will on the issue here could be about to change.