TURKEY URGES FRANCE TO BLOCK ARMENIAN GENOCIDE BILL

Agence France Presse -- English
May 10, 2006 Wednesday

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called
on France to block a French parliamentary bill that would make it a
punishable offence to deny that the World War I massacres of Armenians
were genocide, and warned that such a move would hurt bilateral ties.

"Ties between Turkey and France are not ordinary relations. They go
back to the 19th century and French firms currently rank first among
companies investing in Turkey," Erdogan told reporters here.

"I believe the French parliament will probably not insert the so-called
Armenian genocide like a virus between two countries that have such
important ties. I believe common sense will prevail," he added.

Erdogan was speaking before his departure to Vienna to attend the
EU-Latin American (EU-LAC) summit on Thursday, where he said he
expected to meet French leaders to discuss the issue.

Turkey, which categorically denies the Armenians were the victims of a
genocide, is warily watching the developments in the French National
Assembly and announced Monday that it had called back its ambassador
to Paris for consultations.

If approved, the bill would provide for one year in prison and a
45,000-euro (57,000-dollar) fine for any person who denies 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 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.