The French parliament is scheduled to debate a bill that would make it illegal to deny the mass murder of Armenians during World War I as a form of genocide.
Talks will begin in France’s legislature on December 22 and, if passed, the law will mandate a one-year prison sentence and a considerable fine.
France is home to a large Armenian population and has remained at the forefront of efforts to spread acceptance of the 1915 Armenian mass-murder as genocide.
The issue has long been a source of tension between the French and Turkish governments. Turkey argues that there was a large-scale Armenian revolt against the Ottomans during the First World War and that a great number of Turks also died in the events. Turkey maintains that 300,000 Armenians were killed, while Armenia and France put the number as high as 1.5 million.
The Turkish government has been quick to respond to France’s move, and says that the bill threatens to harm Turkish-French relations.
Turkey's president Abdullah Gul said in a statement, “I want to hope that France will not sacrifice centuries-old Turkish-French friendship, common interests and bonds of alliance for small political calculations,” the Agence France Presse news agency quoted him as saying.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s President, against allowing Armenian genocide legislation to pass. In a recent letter, Erdogan pressed Sarkozy, “to keep his promise that such legislative attempts would not be finalized and block irreparable developments,” the Turkish news source Hurriyet reported.
A delegation of Turkish MPs is in Paris to meet with a Sarkozy aide and members of the French government in an effort to dissuade the bill’s passage. Turkey has also threatened sanctions against France.
In an apparent attempt at retaliation, Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) introduced a bill to the Turkish legislature today outlawing the denial of what it calls French genocides in Algeria and Sudan. A two-year prison term and a fine of 90,000 euros would face anyone convicted if the bill passes, says Hurriyet.