The Voice of Russia
Dec 28 2011

Armenian factor in geopolitics

Ilya Kharlamov

Valerie Boyer, a French lawmaker who drafted the controversial
Armenian genocide bill, has been made a target by the Turks. She has
received death threats following the passing of a bill making the
denial of Armenian genocide in Turkey a criminal offence. Then hackers
attacked her personal website, posting a Turkish flag and a message in
Turkish and English, describing the Armenian diaspora in France and
the French as "pathetic and pitiful".

Last week, the National Assembly passed a bill criminalizing public
denial of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey rejects the term "genocide" to
describe the killing of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. In
response to the bill, Turkey has recalled its Ambassador to France,
halted political and economic contacts with Paris and suspended
military cooperation. These tough measures seem to have encouraged
Turkish nationalists who are not afraid to resort to crime.

Opponents of the bill say that by passing it France's ruling party
wants to win votes of some half a million ethnic Armenians living in
France in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. But
it is quite strange as their vote can not be of any significance in
the country with the population of 65 million. The fact that up to 1.5
million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks in 1915-16 has been
proved by many studies. It is recognized by dozens of countries and
the European Parliament.

It is not the first time France has come up with this initiative, says
expert in the Oriental Studies Stanislav Tarasov.

"Here we have geopolitical interests. During the Presidency of Nicolas
Sarkozy France is trying to play a more significant role in the Middle
East and the North Africa. That is why France has always been opposed
to granting EU membership status to Turkey. France was one of the
countries that supported the Arab Spring. Trying to gain control over
raw materials, France started to act more independently as one of the
regional leaders. At the same time, Turkey managed to strengthen its
ties with Russia and Muslim countries starting to distance itself from
NATO and the West. The conflict was inevitable."

France has taken risks by passing the bill on the Armenian genocide.
It wins the support of the Armenians, but has alienated the Turks and
migrants from other Muslim states.

Besides, Turkey may decide to give up the idea of joining the European
Union, which would play into the hands of France and Germany. This
conflict draws the line under the Turkish attempts to enter the
European Union, says Alexander Sotnichenko, head of the Center for
Studying the Middle East.

"This scandal wraps up all the efforts by Turkey to join the European
Union. Euro integration for the country is now a thing of the past."

The Armenian factor could also deteriorate the relations between
Turkey and Israel. The Israeli Parliament began debating a proposal to
recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.
A large majority supports the proposal, although Israel's Foreign
Ministry warned that it will damage relations with Turkey. They are
not great, especially after last year's incident when Israeli naval
commandos killed nine Turks in a raid on a flotilla that tried to
breach Israel's Gaza blockade.

So the adamant stand taken by the Turkish authorities who respond
sensitively to the proven historical fact will bring a lot of
surprises in the future.