Recently, quoting its own sources, Spiegel Online, a widely read German-language news website, has published an article telling that the German government is ready to distance itself from Bundestag’s resolution describing the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. According to the news website, it was a political gesture to appease Ankara, since the German parliament’s genocide resolution has placed a strain on the relations of Germany and Turkey.
Turkey did what it usually does in such situations – an official diplomatic protest, recalling of the ambassador and policy of blackmail. At first, it threatened to scrap the migrant deal with the EU – it is a very sensitive issue for Brussels. Then, the Turkish government blocked access to NATO’s İncirlik airbase for the Bundestag delegation. Afterwards, Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu hinted that Germany will get access to the airbase only after Berlin disowns the resolution on the Armenian Genocide. His German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier responded strictly saying that the visit by the Bundestag lawmakers to the airbase cannot be linked to the genocide resolution.
Despite the German authorities’ public statements, it appears that Turkey has achieved certain results. According to Spiegel, the German Foreign Ministry and the Federal Chancellor’s Administration agreed that the government’s official representative Steffen Siebert will make a statement for the press saying that the resolution is “not binding” for the government, but it is Bundestag’s “political statement with no legal importance.”
As anticipated, the government spokesperson Steffen Siebert made a statement wherein he at first sight refuted the data of Der Spiegel. He said the government “supports and defends” parliament’s right to express its opinion on any issue and that the government is not authorized to interfere with the affairs of the other power branches or assess their actions. At the same time, he made a reservation that sounded like the government is distancing itself from the resolution. Siebert said Bundestag’s resolution is not legally binding. Nothing of the kind has been said about it before.
Many are surprised to hear that in Germany that is a parliamentary republic Bundestag’s resolution may have no legal force. It is not likely that the government’s spokesperson made that statement accidentally. After all, that was the main message of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who said after his meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: "The German Bundestag naturally has every right and the freedom to express itself on political issues. But the Bundestag itself said that there is not a legally binding basis for every resolution."
Talking to EADaily, Alexander Rahr, a well-known German political analyst, confirmed the data of the German media saying that Berlin and Angela Merkel are concerned over issues emerging from an inflow of migrants from the Middle East to Europe. Rahr is sure that the German government “bowed down” before Turkey, as the latter threatened to scrap the migrant deal and not because of the dispute around İncirlik airbase.
“Yes, it was a public bow before Erdogan. Merkel needs the Turkish president to curb the inflow of migrants to Europe. It is a very sensitive issue for Germany, the more so as the country will hold parliamentary elections in a year, amid deepening migrant crisis. There was a domestic political reason too,” the political analyst said.
As for the German government’s statement that the Bundestag resolution labeling the mass killings of Armenians as genocide is “not legally binding,” Alexander Rahr thinks it was the first sign that the government distances itself from the resolution. “The government wants to show that the given resolution is not a call for action for it. That is, it cannot become a factor forming the agenda of Germany’s foreign policy, much less in the relations with Turkey. This is the same as the recent voting of the French Senate for lifting the sanctions against Russia, amid the French government’s statements disowning that decision. At present, many officials in Germany may come out with refutations, but it is too clear to make any comment on,” Rahr said.
It appears that Berlin has found a way to respond to Turkey’s demands in such complex geopolitical game. On the one hand, the German government seeks to save its face and makes loud statements about the Bundestag’s rights to express its opinion on any issue. On the other hand, they legally “kill” the Armenian Genocide resolution of their own parliament. It is politics - the art of achieving the possible.
In this game, Turkey is turning into a “lie detector” for the German authorities. If Ankara lets the German lawmakers or any other German delegations to visit İncirlik airbase and keeps the migrant deal with the EU, it would probably mean that Ankara has accepted Berlin’s political gesture - “a not legally binding resolution.”
Arshaluys Mghdesyan for EADaily