Turkey Urges France to Reject Armenian Genocide Bill

on January 20 2012 4:48 PM
Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu: 'An affront to freedom of expression' Reuters

As a French bill that would criminalize denial of the mass killings of Armenians during Turkey's Ottoman era moves closer to becoming law, Turkey is urging the Paris Senate, where the bill is scheduled to be debated Monday, to reject it.

Calling on France to respect European values, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the passage of the bill would leave a black stain on France's intellectual history.

We invite each French senator to stop for a while and think beyond all political interests, Davutoglu said.

On Dec. 22, the French Lower House approved the law, which, for those who deny the 1915 massacre of Armenians, could mean a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000). The approval of the bill drew a threat of sanctions from Turkey and the freezing of political and military ties with France.

France formally recognized the Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, but imposed no penalty for those who disagreed. More than 20 countries have formally recognized the killings as genocide, the BBC reported.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million people were killed during World War I by forces belonging to Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey categorically denies this allegation, saying 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died in combat or from starvation when Armenians sided with invading Russian forces , a result of civil war.

Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of pandering to the half-million ethnic Armenians living in France in order to secure their vote for the upcoming presidential election this spring.

On Friday, a letter sent to Erdogan from Sarkozy was released by the French embassy in Ankara.

I hope we can make reason prevail and maintain our dialogue, as befits allied and friendly countries, he wrote, adding that the bill was in no way aimed at any state or people in particular.

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