A widening rift is developing between the Swedish and Turkish governments in the wake of the Swedish parliament’s decision to recognise the 1915 mass killings of ethnic groups including Armenians as genocide.
In Turkey, Christer Asp, the Swedish Ambassador, confirmed that protests had continued over the weekend in several cities, which followed the large demonstration that took place outside of the Swedish consulate last Friday in Istanbul. Asp added that he had been inundated with hate mail from concerned parties inside both countries, which question the continuance of Swedish business interests in Turkey and the Middle East.
“Some of the letters are formulated in such a way that I could not repeat them in public. They are not threats but they’re not saying anything nice about Sweden, if you know what I mean,” Asp told reporters. The Local has also reported that Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, has publicly condemned the parliamentary vote. “These kinds of decisions tend to increase tensions rather than reduce them,” he said.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had earlier given Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart, an assurance that he was not in support of the decision. Reinfeldt contacted Erdogan last Saturday in an attempt to distance himself from the decision, which officially recognised the mass killings by Ottoman Turks of Armenians as genocide.
Reinfeldt blamed “domestic politics” for the decision and claimed that he was “ready to do the necessary so that this unfounded decision does not harm bilateral relations”. The Swedish parliament defied government advice to recognise the genocide of Armenians and other groups following the disbanding of the Ottoman Empire.