Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Turkey and France Await Genocide Vote

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Turkey and France Await Genocide Vote

Article excerpt

The Turkish foreign minister said last week in Ankara that the legislation, if passed, would "remain as a black stain in France's intellectual history, and we will always remind them of this black stain."

The French Senate is scheduled to vote on Monday on legislation that would penalize those who deny genocide, taking another step along a path that has already damaged France's relations with Turkey.

The legislation, passed in December by the National Assembly, France's lower house, does not specifically mention the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks that began in 1915. But those killings were formally labeled genocide by the French Parliament in 2001, leading to an angry reaction from the Turkish government, which insists that there were mass deaths on both sides. About 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have died from shootings, exposure and starvation.

The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Friday at a news conference in Ankara that the legislation, if passed, would "remain as a black stain in France's intellectual history, and we will always remind them of this black stain." He asked French senators to reject it.

In a letter last week to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that the bill was in "no way aimed at any state or people in particular." Mr. Sarkozy urged "reason and dialogue" with Turkey on the issue.

Still, the only other mass killing legally recognized in France as genocide is the Holocaust, and it is already a crime here to deny the Holocaust.

After the December vote, Turkey's ambassador to France, Tahsin Burcuoglu, was briefly recalled to Ankara. Turkey also suspended military cooperation and bilateral political and economic contracts with France. Mr. Erdogan accused Mr. Sarkozy of playing politics and fanning Islamophobia.

The legislation is the initiative of Valerie Boyer, a legislator from Mr. Sarkozy's governing party. Ms. Boyer, who is from Marseille, a city with a sizable Armenian constituency, denies playing politics.

"Genocide is a universal problem," she said in an interview. "It is something that is over and above politics."

But her draft law has annoyed the Sarkozy government at a time when France wants Turkish cooperation on issues including the Arab Spring, Syrian unrest and the Iranian nuclear program. France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said in December that the vote on the genocide law legislation had "without doubt been badly timed."

"It is important, in the current context, that we keep the paths of dialogue and cooperation open," he said. …

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