France - Armenia - Turkey

Turkey withdraws French ambassador after Armenian genocide vote

Reuters/Charles Platiau

Turkey has recalled it ambassador from Paris in protest at a French bill making the denial of the Armenian genocide a criminal offence. France's lower house of parliament approved the bill, which makes it a crime to deny the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Turkish Ottoman forces amounted to a genocide during World War I.

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The National Assembly, was sparsely attended for a debate held a few days before the Christmas holiday, but around 50 lawmakers from all parties backed the bill and only a half dozen voted against.

The draft law will now be considered by the Senate and parliamentary committees, and may be enacted early next year, despite reported concerns from the foreign ministry about damage to France's ties with Turkey.

The law would impose a 45,000 euro fine and a year in prison for anyone in France who denies the genocide.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc strongly criticised the vote saying it was a "betrayal of history".

"I condemn the French parliament, which passed this bill meaning betrayal of history and historical truth," Arinc said on his Twitter account. "The French parliament... dimmed out history and truth by approving the bill."

Arinc accused the French lawmakers backing the bill of "bringing back the Inquisition", and he said the legislation was "evil-minded".

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip is expected to announce further measures in response to the vote on Friday.

France works with Turkey on dealing with the Iranian nuclear stand-off and the crisis in Syria, and French firms want to tap its large market, so the effects of a breakdown in relations could be major.

Meanwhile, Armenia's foreign minister thanked Paris for the vote saying France had "once again proved its commitment to universal human values".

Some historians claim up to a million and a quarter Armenians were massacred after 1915 as they were forced out of Turkey towards Syria by a government that feared they sympathised with Russia, at that time at war with Turkey.

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