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French senate to vote on Armenian genocide law

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-04

France's Senate will vote later in January on a controversial bill to outlaw denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey. The proposed law, which sparked fury in Turkey, was passed by the Lower National Assembly in December.

AFP - France's upper house of parliament will vote this month on a bill to outlaw denial of the Armenian genocide, a government official told AFP, despite a furious diplomatic spat with Turkey.

The French lower house approved the law last month, threatening anyone who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide with jail, drawing a threat of sanctions from Turkey.

Ankara froze political and military ties with France when the bill was passed by the National Assembly, and has threatened further measures if it continues through the Senate or is approved by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In 1915 and 1916, during World War I many Armenians died in Ottoman Turkey. Armenia says 1.5 million were killed in a genocide. Turkey says around 500,000 died in fighting after Armenians sided with Russian invaders.

France recognised the killings as a genocide in 2001, but the new bill would punish anyone who denies this with a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Modern Turkey is still very sensitive about the issue, and has accused France of attacking freedom of expression and free historical enquiry.

France is home to an estimated 500,000 citizens of Armenian descent, and Sarkozy's UMP party has been accused of backing the law in order to pander to a key electoral demographic group ahead of presidential and legislative elections.

It is backed by a cross-party majority of lawmakers but has not won universal support in the government, where some ministers fear it will hurt diplomatic and trade ties with a NATO ally and major economic partner.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said publicly that the bill is "badly timed" and has been reported as describing it privately as "stupid".

Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador to Paris, but officials say he may return shortly in order to lobby against the bill.

Date created : 2012-01-04


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