FRENCH PARLIAMENT PASSES ARMENIAN 'GENOCIDE' BILL

Associated Press
Jan 23 2012

PARIS (AP) - A bill making it a crime to deny the 1915 killings of
Armenians was a genocide has passed both houses of France's parliament.

The Senate's vote Monday came despite Turkey's threats to impose
new sanctions on France. It already suspended military, economic and
political ties when the lower house of French parliament passed the
bill last month.

The measure now needs to be signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy,
whose party proposed it, to become a law.

While most historians contend that the 1915 killings of Armenians as
the Ottoman Empire broke up was the 20th century's first genocide,
Turkey vigorously denies that.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further
information. AP's earlier story is below.

PARIS (AP) - Turkey threatened more sanctions for France if the Senate
in Paris votes later Monday to make it a crime to deny the 20th-century
killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks constitutes a genocide.

France's lower house voted to make such denials a crime last month,
prompting Turkey to suspended military, economic and political ties.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will be on a fast track to becoming
law. If it fails, the National Assembly, France's lower house, could
take it up again, starting the process over.

As the debate before the vote got under way, rival demonstrations -
one pro-Turkish and one pro-Armenian, kept apart by a large police
presence - gathered outside the upper house of parliament, waving
flags and blowing whistles.

On Saturday, thousands of Turks from across Europe marched through
the French capital, accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy of
acting in the hope of securing French Armenians' votes in this year's
presidential elections.

An estimated 500,000 Armenians live in France.

While most historians contend that the 1915 killings of 1.5 million
Armenians as the Ottoman Empire broke up was the 20th century's first
genocide, Turkey has vigorously denied that. It says that there was
no systematic campaign to kill Armenians and that many Turks also
died during the chaotic disintegration of the empire.

On Monday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, speaking during
a visit to Strasbourg, France, said: "What would happen if a thousand,
ten thousand or a hundred thousand gathered around Eiffel and said
'there is no genocide'? What would the French justice do? Would it
be able to convict ten thousand or a hundred thousand people? I don't
think so."

But the most significant protest came from Ankara, Turkey's capital,
where the foreign minister warned that he was ready to take new
measures against France if the bill passed.

"Turkey will continue to implement sanctions as long as this bill
remains in motion," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told
reporters ahead of the debate. "We hope however, that this won't be
necessary and that common sense will reign in the French Senate."

He did not spell out the measures Turkey would take.

The bill sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of
euro45,000 ($59,000) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize"
the killings - putting such action on par with denial of the Holocaust.

France formally recognized the 1915 killings as genocide in 2001,
but provided no penalty for anyone rejecting that.

The bill strikes at the heart of national honor in Turkey, which has
argued that the bill would compromise freedom of expression in France.

"European values are under threat," Davutoglu said Monday. "If each
parliament takes decisions containing its own views of history and
implements them, a new era of Inquisition will be opened in Europe."

"Those who voice views that exclude this view of history will be
jailed," he said. "It would unfortunately, be a great shame for France
to revive this."