TURKEY WARNS FRANCE OVER ARMENIAN GENOCIDE LAW

guardian.co.uk
Tuesday 24 January 2012 11.59 GMT

Kim Willsher in Paris, Sam Jones and agencies

French senators have approved the bill, risking more sanctions from
Ankara and complicating relations with Turkey

Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in French Guiana, has angered the Turkish
government with the proposed law. Photograph: AMIET JODY/SIPA /
Rex Features Turkey has warned Nicolas Sarkozy that he will compound
"France's political, legal and moral mistakes" and face retaliatory
action if he signs a law making it a crime to deny that the mass
killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago constitutes
genocide.

French senators approved the bill on Monday night, risking more
sanctions from Ankara and complicating an already delicate relationship
with the rising power.

Those denying or "minimising" the genocide could face a [email protected],000
(37,000) fine and a year in jail. France recognised the killing of
the Armenians as "genocide" in 2001, but at the time introduced no
legal penalty for denying it.

Turkey - which sees the allegations of genocide as a threat to
its national honour - has already suspended military, economic and
political ties and briefly recalled its ambassador last month when the
lower house of parliament approved the same bill. The French president,
whose party supported the legislation, is expected to ratify the bill
before the presidential elections in April. Sarkozy's critics have
accused him of pandering to the 500,000 Armenians who live in France
in a bid to secure their votes.

The bill's approval met with a furious reaction in Ankara, with the
foreign ministry describing the action as irresponsible and saying it
was "unfortunate that the historical and multi-dimensional relations
between the Republic of Turkey and France have been sacrificed to
considerations of political agenda".

The Turkish government did not indicate what countermeasures it was
considering, saying only: "We find it useful to remind all parties
that, in case of the completion of the finalisation process for
the law, we will not hesitate to implement, as we deem appropriate,
the measures that we have considered in advance.

"Similarly, it must be also known that we will continue to strongly
use our right to defend ourselves on a legitimate basis against
unfair allegations."

Supporters of the bill claim 1.5m Armenians were killed in Turkey under
the Ottoman authorities during the first world war in a deliberate
policy that constitutes genocide. Many historians agree, but Turkey
disputes the term genocide and claims many Turks died during fighting
in eastern Turkey in 1915 and 1916.

The vote came after an entire afternoon and evening of debate in the
Senat. Defending the bill, government minister Patrick Ollier told
senators that legislation was justified in the "fight against the
negationist poison".

He added: "This proposed legislation is part of a general movement
to repress racist and xenophobic statements."

However, last week a Senat committee warned the law would be
unconstitutional because it violates the right to freedom of speech.

Although the French foreign ministry described Ankara a "very important
ally", relations with Turkey are already strained - largely because
Sarkozy opposes Turkey's entry into the EU.

The bill's approval also comes at a time when Turkey, a Nato member,
is playing an increasingly important role in the international
community's response to the violence in Syria, in the standoff over
Iran's nuclear programme and in Middle East peace negotiations.




From: A. Papazian