Agence France Presse -- English
May 9, 2006 Tuesday 4:41 PM GMT

French businesses in Turkey oppose French Armenia genocide bill

ANKARA, May 9 2006


The French Chamber of Commerce in Ankara said Tuesday it has asked
President Jacques Chirac to block a French bill that would make it a
punishable offence to deny the existence of the 1915 Armenian
genocide.

The organisation, which counts some 430 French companies as members,
said in a letter sent Monday to Chirac, a copy of which was obtained
by AFP, that the proposed legislation "would be perceived by the
entire Turkish nation as an unacceptable and hostile act" that could
"cause irremediable harm" to relations between the two countries.

Turkey and Armenia disagree about whether massacres of Armenians
under the Ottoman Empire should be termed genocide.

Representatives of 22 French companies with operations in Turkey met
Tuesday with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who
encouraged them to express their opposition to the bill, the Anatolia
news agency reported.

Last week, Turkey warned France that bilateral ties would suffer
"incalculable damage" if the National Assembly passed the bill. The
Turkish ambassador to Paris was withdrawn "for consultations" this
week.

If approved, the bill would provide for one year in prison and a
45,000-euro (57,000-dollar) fine for any person who denied that the
1915-1917 massacres of Armenians were genocide.

The bill, which follows a 2001 French law officially recognising the
massacres as genocide, was proposed by members of the opposition
Socialist Party (PS) and will have its first reading before the
Assembly on May 18.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in
orchestrated killings between 1915 and 1917, as the Ottoman Empire,
modern Turkey's predecessor, was falling apart.

Turkey categorically rejects the claims, saying 300,000 Armenians and
at least as many Turks died in civil strife when the Armenians took
up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian
troops invading Ottoman soil.