France - Turkey

Turkey threatens further action against France over Armenia bill

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Turkey might step up action against France if the French Senate votes this month to outlaw denial of the Armenian genocide, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Thursday.

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"There may be a downgrading of the Turkish diplomatic representation in Paris. It is probable," if the upper house of parliament approves the bill criminalising denial of the disputed 1915 genocide, said the source.

France's upper house of parliament is to vote this month on a bill to outlaw denial of the Armenian genocide, according to a government official.

The French lower house approved the law last month, threatening jail for anyone who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide.

The move sparked a furious diplomatic row and Ankara’s decision to freeze political and military ties with Paris.

In 1915 and 1916, during World War I, many Armenians died in Ottoman Turkey.
Armenia says 1.5 million were killed in a genocide. Turkey says around 500,000 died in fighting after Armenians sided with Russian invaders.

France recognised the killings as a genocide in 2001, but the new bill would punish anyone who denies this with a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Modern Turkey is still very sensitive about the issue, and has accused France of attacking freedom of expression and free historical enquiry.

France is home to an estimated 500,000 citizens of Armenian descent, and Sarkozy's UMP party has been accused of backing the law in order to pander to a key constituency ahead of presidential and legislative elections.

It is backed by a cross-party majority of lawmakers but has not won universal support in the government, where some ministers fear it will hurt diplomatic and trade ties with a Nato ally and major economic partner.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said publicly that the bill is "badly timed" and has been reported as describing it privately as "stupid".

Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador to Paris, but officials say he may return shortly in order to lobby against the bill.

 

 

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