Armenia on September 9 got a gift from Greece — a law making it a crime to deny that the World-War-I slaughter of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey amounts to genocide. Needless to say, thanks already have been expressed.
The measure comes as part of a new anti-hate-crime law that applies similar penalties for rebuttals of the Holocaust and other war-crimes. The law also toughens punishments for racially and sexually motivated hate-crimes.
Greece ranks as the third country after Switzerland and Slovakia to criminalize claims that the slaughter, which Turkey downplays as one of many atrocities of World War I, ranks as a genocide. In 2012, France, home to a large Armenian Diaspora, adopted a similar bill, which strained relations with Turkey before being overturned by the French Constitutional Court.
Ankara, which is playing its cards warily with Armenia in the run-up to the 2015 centennial anniversary of the massacre, does not appear yet to have responded to Athens’ criminalization vote.
Nor, as yet, has Turkic strategic ally Azerbaijan, Armenia’s enemy-number-one.
The two “brothers” are not generally quiet on such matters; the Azerbaijani government, for instance, stepped up to the plate for Turkey on France’s genocide-denial decision.
If it does choose to speak up in this latest case, Baku, arguably, could grab some Greek ears.
Last year, the state-run regional energy player SOCAR (State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic) purchased a 66-percent stake in the government-controlled gas-distribution network DESFA; the aim, as Natural Gas Europe wrote, is for Greece to become “ a spring board for [SOCAR’s] expansion further into Southeast Europe” via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.
The gas will come courtesy of that conduit of choice, Turkey.
The European Commission has yet to approve the takeover, but both Greece and Azerbaijan reportedly are as keen as ever.
Nothing, as yet, suggests that Baku plans to use this energy-card to pressure or reprimand Athens over the genocide-denial bill. But it does, in theory, give Azerbaijan a potentially influential hand to play.