ANKARA - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday urged French lawmakers to reject a bill making it illegal to deny the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, which comes up for a vote next week.
Lawmakers in the lower-house National Assembly voted overwhelmingly last month in favor of a draft law outlawing genocide denial. That prompted Ankara to cancel all economic, political and military meetings with Paris and briefly recall its ambassador for consultations.
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NATO member Turkey, which sees the charge of genocide as a national insult, has warned it will take further action against Paris if the bill is approved.
"We call every senator to take some time to assess the issue," Davutoglu told a news conference.
"The parliament's decision will not live. It will be a black stain on
French intellectual history and we will always remind them of that."
A Senate panel this week said it would be unconstitutional for France to
make it illegal to deny the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman
Turks. It said that if the bill passed it would violate statutes
including one on freedom of speech.
However, the non-binding recommendation will not stop the vote going
ahead on Jan. 23, with the Senate leaders of President Nicolas Sarkozy's
UMP party and the opposition Socialists saying they would vote in favor
of the bill.
The law is expected to be passed, although Turkey has been lobbying
aggressively over the last few weeks for senators to back down with
suggestions that the result in the Senate will be closer than originally
"We're beginning to see hesitations in the Senate," Jean-Louis-Bianco,
head of strategy on foreign affairs for Socialist leader Francois
Hollande, told Reuters.
Turkey calls the bill a bid by Sarkozy to win the votes of 500,000
ethnic Armenians in France in a two-round presidential vote on April 22
and May 6. It says it curbs freedom of speech and meddles in matters
best left to historians.
Sarkozy wrote a letter to Erdogan this week saying the bill did not
single out any particular country and that France was aware of the
"suffering endured by the Turkish people" during the final years of the
Turkey argues there was heavy loss of life on all sides, not only among Armenians, during fighting in the region.
"The aim of this bill, which will first and foremost be applicable in
France and to French citizens, is to protect the memories of members of
our society who have been carrying along with them for a very long time
the feeling of denial of the reality their ancestors went through and to
heal their wounds that were inflicted a hundred years ago," Sarkozy
European Union candidate Turkey could not impose economic sanctions on
France, given its World Trade Organization membership and customs union
accord with Europe.
But the spat could cost France state-to-state contracts and would create
diplomatic tensions as Turkey takes an increasingly influential role in
the Middle East.