Consequences After Genocide Vote
In what came as a surprise result, the Swedish parliament has voted to officially describe the murders of as many as 1.5 million Armenians and other ethnic groups in Turkey during the First World War as genocide.
Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Ankara in protest, and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has cancelled his visit to Stockholm next week.
Sweden's ambassador in Turkey was also summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to receive official protests from the government for the decision, which Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called "regretful."
The Swedish ambassador, Christer Asp, told news agency TT that the genocide question "is probably the most sensitive issue for Turks right now."
Asp said that the Swedish vote was the most important news item in the country on Thursday, and media attention was huge when he left the Turkish Foreign Ministry after his meeting there this morning.
He told Swedish Radio News that the Turkish officials expressed great disappointment over the Swedish parliament's decision to classify the killings as genocide.
Sweden has been a strong supporter of Turkey's admittance to the EU, with trade and tourism contributing to Sweden's high profile in the country.
The resolution was passed over the sitting government’s wishes, with every member of the red-green opposition voting in favor, along with a handful of MPs from the government parties.
Opponents had argued that such a description would outrage Turkey, which denies any genocide took place, and would jeopardize Turkish membership in the European Union. Supporters said the Swedish Foreign Ministry has been too passive on the issue.
But Foreign Minister Carl Bildt maintained in an radio interview this morning that the parliament's decision will render its diplomatic work in the region far more difficult at a time when Sweden was really making progress.
He emphasized that the parliament's decision is not the government's decision, not until it has been approved by an appropriate commission anyway. The government is technically not required to make a parliamentary recommendation law, though a rejection seldom occurs.
Bildt's criticism of the action was mirrored by other people with insight in the Middle Eastern diplomatic affairs. Ingmar Karlsson, Sweden's former consular-general in Istanbul and an expert on the Middle East, holds that the decision will have a negative impact, particularly on Armenia.
"This is a country that is suffering from being isolated from the rest of the world and has no diplomatic relations. Those people who think that they are fighting for the Armenians' side should know that they have done them a great disservice," Karlsson told TT in an interview.
The vote could "sabotage the work that has already been accomplished," he added. "The risk is that Armenia lands in the hands of Moscow even more."
Turkey is also an important trading partner; the country is Sweden's 16th biggest export destination.
Sweden's Minister for Trade Ewa Björling doesn't think that the vote will make for any serious consequences on trade, however, citing their strong ties.
The Swedish votes comes exactly one week after an American congressional committee passed a similar resolution.