Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France Tahsin Burcuoglu and plans to impose sanctions on Paris in retaliation for the French government’s efforts to criminalize anyone who seeks to deny that the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I was a form of genocide.
France' lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill. Next year, the French Senate will consider it.
The bill proposes a 45,000 euro fine and jail sentence of up to one year for those who violate the law.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, told a news conference in the capital Ankara that Turkey will cancel all economic, political, military meetings with France over the genocide bill. In addition, France will be prohibited from landing military aircraft or warships in Turkey.
“I will announce what we will do at the first stage and we will announce what kind of sanctions we will have at the second and third stages,” Erdogan said, according to Anatolia news agency.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on his Twitter account: I condemn the French parliament, which passed this bill, [which indicates a].. betrayal of history and historical truth… The French parliament... dimmed out history and truth by approving the bill.”
Interestingly, France passed a law recognizing the murder of Armenians as genocide as long ago as 2001. In 2006, the French lower house passed an earlier bill that declared denial of the Armenian genocide as a crime, but the Senate rejected it in May 2011.
Moreover, France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe strongly opposes the bill.
It [the bill] is useless and counter-productive, he told reporters.
Passing laws in France won't change their minds in Turkey. We recognize the consequences. I would expect a robust Turkish response. The retaliation could have damaging and serious consequences.
Relations between Turkey and the ruling party of French President Nicolas Sarkozy (which drafted the bill) had been uneasy anyway, owing largely to Sarkozy’s steadfast refusal to consider Turkey for membership in the European Union (EU).
Turkey, however, remains a key member of NATO.
Alienating Turkey also poses some risks for France, given the buoyant Turkish economy and its growing stature in the Middle East. According to reports, Turkey is France’s sixth largest export market.
Turkey is a democracy and has joined the World Trade Organization so it can't just discriminate for political reasons against countries, Europe Minister Jean Leonetti told France Inter radio.
I think these threats are just hot air and we (have) to begin a much more reasoned dialogue.
The genocide bill relates to the mass murder of up to 1.5-million Christian Armenians in Eastern Turkey during 1915-1916. Armenian survivors and their descendants claim this was a state-sanctioned mass killing which predated the Nazis extermination of Jews by almost three decades.
Meanwhile, Turkey insists that there was no genocide and that Armenians, as well as many Turks, died from the realities of war. Moreover, Turkey places the number of Armenian died at “only” 300,000.
Turkish officials claim that Sarkozy is pushing this bill in order to generate votes from the 500,000-strong Armenian community in France for next year’s elections.
A Frenchman of Armenian descent Maurice Delighazarian told Associated Press: Our ancestors can finally rest in peace.”
Valerie Boyer, an MP and a member from France's ruling UMP party, defended the bill.
It [the bill] is inspired by European law, which says that the people who deny the existence of the genocides must be sanctioned, she told reporters.
Similarly, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, an MP from the New Centre party, said: Laws voted in this chamber cannot be dictated by Ankara.
The republic of Armenia itself praised France.
The Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement in Yerevan: By adopting this bill [France] reconfirmed that crimes against humanity do not have a period of prescription and their denial must be absolutely condemned.”
He added: I would like to once again express my gratitude to France's to p leadership, to the National Assembly, and to the French people. [France has] once again proved its commitment to universal human values.