Cyprus' parliament has legislated to criminalize the denial of the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

Parliamentary speaker Yiannakis Omirou says that through a unanimous vote, lawmakers can make denial of any historically proven massacre a crime.

Omirou said after a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Thursday that Cyprus was the first country to raise the issue of recognizing the Armenian genocide at the U.N. General Assembly in 1965. The event is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey however, denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

Armenians mark the centenary of the killings on April 24.