France - Turkey - Armenia

Turkey angered by Sarkozy call to recognise Armenian genocide

Reuters/Tigran Mehrabyan

A Turkish minister has dismissed Nicolas Sarkozy’s call to accept that “genocide” was committed against Armenians at the end of the Ottoman empire. The French president made the call in Yerevan on a short tour of the Caucasus, due to end in Georgia on Friday afternoon.


Sarkozy called on Ankara to make the decision “pretty soon”, threatening to pass a genocide denial law if it does not do so.

But Turkish European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis accused him of bidding for the votes of France’s roughly half-a-million-strong Armenian community and told him to “define the future”, not the past.

"It would be better... if Monsieur Sarkozy abandons the role of historian and puts his mind to getting his country out of the economic gulf in which it finds itself," he said.

Armenia says up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in 1915, when the Turks accused them of rising up in support of Russia’s invasion during World War I.

Turkey says that the figure was no higher than 500,000 and that at least as many Turks were killed.

On Thursday Sarkozy declared Turkey’s refusal to accept the genocide label “unacceptable” and on Friday he declared that he would table a law in France that would make denying that the events were genocide a crime.

The lower house of the French parliament rejected such a move in 2007.

In 2009 Turkey and Armenia signed agreements opening the way to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the border between them but they have yet to be ratified.

Sarkozy called on Turkey to choose “peace” and “reconciliation”, advice he also handed down to Armenia and Azerbaijan in relation to their dispute over the Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sarkozy continues to Tblisi on Firday afternoon, three years after negotiating a ceasefire between Georgia and Russia, an agreement that the Georgians claim the Russians are not respecting.

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