France and Turkey in war of words over 1915 massacre of Armenians

A war of words between France and Turkey escalated on Wednesday over the 1915   mass killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, with France’s   Europe minister claiming it was a “fact of history” that it   amounted to genocide.

The French parliament is on Thursday to debate and likely approve a bill   tabled by a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party that would see   anyone who publicly denies the “genocide” facing a year in jail   and a fine of 45,000 euros (£38,000). The only legal equivalent in France is   for denying the Holocaust. Turkey has increased pressure on France to drop the law, with President   Abdullah Gul and a Turkish delegation to Paris warning its adoption would   ignite a diplomatic crisis and have economic consequences. In a joint declaration, Turkey’s ruling and opposition parties denounced it as   a “grave, unacceptable and historic mistake”, calling on France to   consider its own past, including its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and   its colonial past in North Africa.

Turkey claims the bill is blatant electioneering – an attempt to win votes   with France’s Armenian   minority, estimated to number up to 500,000 people, ahead of presidential   and parliamentary elections next year. But European Affairs Minister Jean Leonetti said on Wednesday: “Today all   peoples must be lucid and courageous in looking at their history. It has   been nearly 100 years since the Armenian genocide took place, those   responsible are dead, it is simply a matter of recognising a fact of history.”   He added that the opposition Socialists were planning to back the bill along   with the ruling UMP party.

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Categories: Europe, Turkey

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