FRANCE SHELVES ARMENIAN GENOCIDE DEBATE

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
May 18 2006

The French parliament has put off indefinitely a debate on a bill
that would make it a crime to deny that the killings of Armenians in
Ottoman Turkey during World War I constituted a genocide.

France recognized the killings as genocide five years ago. Under the
proposed new bill, denying the genocide would be punishable by a year
in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros (more than $57,000)

Turkey has always denied the genocide assertions, saying the Armenians
died in civil unrest.

Earlier today, French Foreign Minister Filippe Douste-Blazy told
lawmakers that adoption of the proposed bill would have "serious
political consequences."

"If the text [of the draft bill] presented to you today was to be
adopted it would be considered as an unfriendly gesture by a vast
majority of the Turkish people," Douste-Blazy said. "This would
inevitably have serious political consequences and weaken our influence
not only in Turkey itself but also beyond, in the whole region."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned that the
passage of the bill would further damage already strained relations
between the two countries.

Turkey's policy over the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians
between 1915 and 1919 is seen as being at odds with its bid to join
the European Union.