TURKEY URGES FRENCH LAWMAKERS TO REJECT GENOCIDE BILL

Voice of America
Jan 20 2012

Turkey has urged French lawmakers to reject a bill making it illegal
to deny as genocide the mass killings of Armenians during Turkey's
Ottoman era nearly a century ago.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on all French senators
Friday to think beyond their political interests.

He said passage of the bill would create a black stain on France's
intellectual history, noting that Turkey will always remind the French
of that stain.

The French senate plans to debate the bill next week. France's lower
house of parliament passed it last month.

Earlier this week, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a letter
to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the bill does
not single out a particular country.

The bill says anyone that denies the mass killings of Armenians by
Ottoman forces constituted genocide faces a nearly $60,000 fine and up
to one year in jail. France formally recognized the Armenian killings
as genocide in 2001, but imposed no penalty for anyone refuting that.

Turkey responded angrily to passage of the bill by France's lower
house of parliament.

Mr. Erdogan accused France of committing genocide in Algeria more
than 60 years ago. He said French colonialists massacred 15 percent of
Algeria's population starting in 1945. He has also accused Mr. Sarkozy
of pandering to the hundreds of thousands of French citizens of
Armenian descent heading into his re-election bid this year.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said Mr. Sarkozy is "prejudiced"
against Turkey.

Relations between France and Turkey, both members of NATO, have
been frozen due to French opposition to Turkey's bid to join the
European Union.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War One
by troops of Turkey's Ottoman Empire, which historians say was one of
the 20th century's worst massacres. Turkey has acknowledged the loss
of Armenian lives, but says the death toll is exaggerated and does not
amount to genocide. It says the deaths were the result of civil war.