The president of the Swiss Confederation has backed Turkey's calls for a study of Armenian claims of genocide, saying the dispute over history should be settled by historians, not politicians reported Todayszaman.
Pascal Couchepin is on a visit to Turkey on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Turkey. He had talks with President Abdullah Gül on Monday and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan on Tuesday. The lower house of the Swiss Parliament accepted the genocide claims in a 2003 vote, causing strain in bilateral relations with Turkey. Last year, Doğu Perinçek, a Turkish politician and the leader of the small Workers' Party (İP), was charged with denying the "genocide" under legislation passed to punish denial of the Holocaust, angering Turkey, which says it is a restriction on the freedom of expression and debate.
The Armenian issue was one of the items discussed in Couchepin's talks with Gül late on Monday. To Turkey's dismay, the Swiss leader defended his country's laws penalizing denial of the Armenian claims at a press conference with Gül. He said the laws were passed 20 years ago with the principal purpose of punishing denial of the Holocaust and that the Swiss judges had the flexibility to interpret laws according to different circumstances. Couchepin also referred to Perinçek, without citing his name, as a "provocateur."
"One of the people is currently under arrest in Turkey for provocations," he said. Perinçek is one of the 86 suspects in the Ergenekon case, in which the prosecutors blame the shadowy network for plotting against the government and seeking stage a military coup.
Perinçek was convicted in a Swiss court in March 2007 under the country's anti-racism laws for saying that the incidents of the World War I era could not be described as genocide. He was ordered to pay a fine of 3,000 Swiss francs ($2,450) and was given a suspended penalty of 9,000 francs ($7,360).
Couchepin and Turkish leaders also discussed efforts against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey claims is freely operating in many European countries. At the press conference, Gül welcomed a series of recent steps taken by Switzerland against the PKK and said Turkey was confident that Switzerland will implement them in the most effective way possible. Couchepin said the Swiss government had recently taken several measures and exerted efforts to stop the activities of the terrorist PKK organization in Switzerland.