France - Turkey - Armenia

Hollande keeps Sarkozy's promise to ban denial of Armenian genocide

Elena Gabrielian / RFI

French President François Hollande has phoned representatives of France’s Armenian community to reassure them that he plans a new law which would criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide, an idea originally championed by his predecessor.


Hollande phoned representatives of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organistations of France on Saturday, to clarify his position after confusion following statements by his Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday.

The CCAF had talked of “betrayal”, after Fabius said that France and Turkey were entering a "new stage" in their relationship, and he appeared to suggest that the Socialist-majority government would not go ahead with a new bill criminalising denial of the Armenian genocide.

"Francois Hollande has again expressed his willingness to propose a bill designed to curb the denial of the Armenian genocide, as he had said during his campaign and even before," the group now says in a communiqué.

The Elysee Palace confirmed the telephone conversation, saying the president would adhere to the commitment he made during the campaign. "There is no change, although we must find a path, a road that allows for a text that is consistent with the constitution."

France is home to a significant Armenian community, and critics of the bill suggest that its supporters are simply pandering to the Armenian lobby.

Hollande's right-wing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy angered Ankara when he pushed ahead with such a bill. After it was voted in the National Assembly in December, Turkey retaliated by suspending military and political cooperation with Paris.

Ankara then welcomed a ruling in February from France's top constitutional court which struck down the bill, saying it violated free expression.

Sarkozy vowed to launch a new law but was defeated at the polls.

The historical question has long been a flashpoint issue between Turkey and Armenia.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died and ascribes the death toll to fighting and starvation during World War.



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