TURKEY READY TO SHARE PAIN WITH ARMENIANS: REPORT

Agence France Presse
February 29, 2012 Wednesday 10:26 AM GMT

Turkey is ready to share the pain of Armenians as they prepare to
mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in 2015, Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said.

"We want to share the pain of those who are ready to share it with
us," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency in an
interview with state-run television TRT Haber late Tuesday.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in
a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says
500,000 died and ascribes the toll to fighting and starvation during
World War I.

"It is necessary to keep channels open in order to share history,"
said Davutoglu.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations as Ankara closed its
border with Yerevan in 1993 because of its war with Azerbaijan over
the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh.

In 2009, Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers signed protocols
to establish diplomatic ties and reopen their shared border. The
protocols also called for a joint commission to examine the two
countries' shared history.

But the normalisation process has stalled after Turkey faced backlash
from its traditional ally Azerbaijan and the opposition at home.

Ankara has also complained that genocide resolutions introduced at
third countries' parliaments are hampering the process.

The French Senate passed a law last year outlawing the denial of
the Armenian genocide, which drew fury from Turkey accusing President
Nicolas Sarkozy of pandering to an estimated 400,000 voters of Armenian
origin ahead of an April-May presidential election.

France had already recognised the killings as a genocide, but the new
law sought to go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up
to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).

On Tuesday, the French Constitutional Council labelled the law
"unconstitutional," which was quickly welcomed by Turkey. But Sarkozy
ordered his government to draft a new law.

Davutoglu accused Sarkozy of "waging a war against French culture
and law."

"At first, he waged war against history and freedom of expression and
now he is waging war on the French Constitutional Council," he added.