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Turkey PM hails 'friend' Reinfeldt

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08:52 CET+01:00
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's decision to distance himself from a Swedish parliament vote on the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks has been hailed as "very positive" by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking after talks with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London, Erdogan welcomed a telephone call made by Swedish premier on Saturday, voicing his sadness over the vote.

"I believe that the statements made by my friend the prime minister of Sweden Mr Reinfeldt are very important," he said, speaking through a translator.

"He has explained in his statements that such decisions taken by the parliament of Sweden are politicising... he regrets to see that such decisions are being taken and he also assures that the Swedish people have very positive views about the Turkish people."

Erdogan added: "I believe that these are all very positive statements... and I thank him for it."

Sweden's parliament moved last week to recognise as genocide the mass killings of Armenians and other ethnic groups in 1915 during the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, going against the government's advice.

Ankara quickly recalled its ambassador and cancelled a visit by Erdogan to Sweden after the vote, which came just days after a similar move by a US Congressional panel.

Armenians, and the majority of international researchers, say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed in a systematic campaign of extermination during World War I as the Ottoman Empire fell apart.

Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label, arguing that between 300,000 and 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks were killed in civil strife when Armenians rose up for independence and sided with invading Russian forces.

But much to Ankara's ire, parliaments in several countries have recognized the killings as genocide.

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