Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Genocide Bill Has Turkey Fuming ; French Senate Approves Measure, Leaving Ties with Ankara in Question

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Genocide Bill Has Turkey Fuming ; French Senate Approves Measure, Leaving Ties with Ankara in Question

Article excerpt

France's approval of a bill criminalizing the denial of officially recognized genocides, including the Armenian genocide, prompted a bitter reaction from Turkey, a European partner France says it needs.

Relations between France and Turkey have dipped to a nadir with the French Senate's approval of a bill criminalizing the denial of officially recognized genocides, including the Armenian genocide begun in 1915.

The Turkish prime minister, anticipating the bill's passage, called the move "incomprehensible" and pledged to "take steps." Turkey has already suspended military cooperation and economic contracts with France over the bill, and on Monday raised the possibility of withdrawing support for Euronews, an international news network based in France, in which Turkey's national radio and television network holds a 15.5 percent stake.

After lengthy debate, the Senate voted 127 to 86 in favor of the legislation late Monday, while hundreds of Turks and Armenians demonstrated outside. If signed into law by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the legislation would call for up to one year in prison and a fine of EUR 45,000, or about $58,000, for those who deny an officially recognized genocide. The bill does not make specific reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians slaughtered under the Ottoman Turks, but France recognizes only those deaths and the Holocaust as genocides and already specifically bans Holocaust denial.

In Turkey, the public affirmation of the Armenian genocide is treated as a crime, on the premise that it is an insult to Turkish identity. In March, the writer Orhan Pamuk was fined 6,000 Turkish lira, or about $3,300, by a Turkish court for his statement in a Swiss newspaper that Turkey had killed "30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians."

Turkey contends that Armenians were not the victims of systematic killings and argues that no more than 500,000 Armenians died, noting that many Turks also perished during those years of war. Thousands of Turks protested the bill in a demonstration in Paris on Saturday.

The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, warned of "permanent sanctions" if the bill passed, calling it a "black stain" on France. …

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