18 May 2006

Voice of America
May 18 2006

The French parliament has postponed a vote on a controversial bill
that would criminalize attempts to deny claims of an Armenian genocide
about 90 years ago in what is now Turkey.

Philippe Douste-Blazy Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told
lawmakers the government could not accept the bill, saying it would
offend the majority of the Turkish people. Lawmakers then put off
the issue until later this year.

Turkish officials had warned that adoption of the bill would cause
permanent damage to the relations between the two countries. Turkey
recalled its ambassador from France earlier this month amid the
rising tensions.

A number of countries, including France, have already officially
recognized the deaths of about 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. The
new Socialist Party-sponsored bill would go further and include a
prison sentence of up to five years and a $57,000 fine for those
denying that genocide took place.

Turkey acknowledges the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians,
but says they died in civil strife and a Russian-backed Armenian
uprising against Ottoman rule that killed at least as many Turks.