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Turkey threatens sanctions over French genocide bill

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2012-01-23

Turkey has threatened “permanent sanctions” against France if the Senate approves a bill that would criminalise denying genocides that are officially recognised by the French state, including the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

Ankara will impose “permanent” sanctions against France if the Senate approves a bill to criminalise denying that the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 amounted to genocide, Turkey’s foreign minister told FRANCE 24 on Sunday.

The Senate, the country’s upper house of parliament, is due to vote on Monday to approve a bill that was passed by the lower National Assembly last month.

Senators from both the ruling conservative UMP party, as well as opposition Socialists, have indicated that they will vote in favour of the bill which is expected to be passed.

The draft law would outlaw any public denial of genocides recognised by the French state, including the Holocaust of the Second World War as well as the massacre of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915.

France officially recognised the Armenian killings as genocide in 2001. The new bill would punish denial with a year’s jail and a fine of up to 45,000 euros.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told FRANCE 24 that the proposed law was an affront to freedom of expression that would make him a criminal for openly discussing an “historical tragedy”.

“If I am asked a question by a journalist, how could I remain silent?” he asked. “This bill would punish me for having an opinion on an historical event. It goes against all European and French values of freedom of expression.”

‘Political opportunism’

FRANCE 24 interview with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

The bill was passed by the French National Assembly on December 23, 2011 – a move that sparked outrage in Turkey which briefly withdrew its ambassador and froze all military cooperation with France.

Davutoglu accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is languishing in the polls ahead of elections in May, of using the bill to gain approval from France’s significant Armenian population of some 500,000 voters.

“The painful history of Armenians and Turks is being used … for political opportunism and against the basic values of politics,” he said.

He added: “There will be further sanctions [if the bill is passed] and they will be permanent.”

According to Armenian historians, up to 1.5 million of their forbears were killed by the Ottoman Turk forces in 1915.

They also say that property and cash criminally appropriated from the Christian Armenian minority helped Kemal Attaturk, the founder of modern Turkey, establish his Turkish republic in 1923 – something they say Turks are nowadays loath to admit.

Turkey rejects this figure and denies that the massacre amounted to genocide – claiming that 500,000 Armenians were killed in the context of a world war and an invasion of the country by Russia that was supported by the county’s ethnic Armenian minority.

Date created : 2012-01-23


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