Monsters and Critics
Jan 24 2012

Paris/Istanbul - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday
denounced as 'discriminatory and racist' a bill adopted by the French
parliament that makes it a crime to deny Armenians suffered genocide
at the hands of Ottoman Turks a century ago.

Turkey would take 'step by step' measures against fellow NATO member
France over the bill, he said, calling it an attack on freedom of

After seven hours of intense debate Monday the French Senate adopted
the bill, which had already been approved by the lower house of
parliament in December.

Armenia welcomed the move as 'historic.'

'The day the law was accepted will be entered with golden letters
not only in the history books of Armenian-French friendship but also
in the chronicles of global human rights protection,' said Armenian
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has 15 days to sign the text into law.

A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Paris, Engin Solakoglu, warned
Sarkozy of repercussions 'in all areas' - diplomatic, political,
economic, military and cultural - if he enacted the law.

'France will have to do without Turkey in these domains,' he told
France Info radio.

In December Turkey already suspended military and diplomatic
cooperation with France, a NATO ally. Turkey has warned this time it
could downgrade ties, among other measures.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Tuesday repeated his appeals for
Turkey to show 'sangfroid'.

Juppe also admitted in an interview with Canal + television that the
bill, which punishes genocide denial by a year in prison and 45,000
euros (57,000 dollars) in fines, was 'badly timed.'

France officially recognizes two genocides: the Nazi Holocaust of
Jews during World War II and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of
Armenians in eastern Turkey between 1915 and 1917.

The country already has a law criminalising Holocaust denial. The
current bill extends that punishment to people who deny Armenians
also suffered genocide.

Armenians say around 1.5 million people were either killed or died
during forced deportations in eastern Turkey in 1915, at the height
of World War I.

A dozen countries have declared there was a genocide.

Turkey estimates between 300,000 and 500,000 people died but rejects
the genocide tag, saying that there was no systematic policy to
destroy the Christian Armenian community.

Ankara has accused Sarkozy of fishing for votes among France's small
but influential Armenian community in the run-up to this year's
presidential elections.