Erdogan slams ‘racist’ French genocide bill
PARIS/ISTANBUL TURKISH Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday denounced as “discriminatory and racist” a bill adopted by the French parliament that makes it a crime to deny Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks a century ago.
Turkey would take “step by step” measures against fellow NATO member France over the bill, he said, calling it an attack on freedom of expression.
After seven hours of intense debate Monday the French Senate adopted the bill, which had already been approved by the lower house of parliament in December.
Armenia welcomed the move as “historic.” “The day the law was accepted will be entered with golden letters not only in the history books of Armenian-French friendship but also in the chronicles of global human rights protection,” said Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has 15 days to sign the text into law.
A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Paris, Engin Solakoglu, warned Sarkozy of repercussions “in all areas” - diplomatic, political, economic, military and cultural - if he enacted the law.
“France will have to do without Turkey in these domains,” he told France Info radio.
In December Turkey already suspended military and diplomatic cooperation with France, a NATO ally.
Turkey has warned this time it could downgrade ties, among other measures.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Tuesday repeated his appeals for Turkey to show “sangfroid”.
Juppe also admitted in an interview with Canal + television that the bill, which punishes genocide denial by a year in prison and 45,000 euros in fines, was “badly timed.” France officially recognizes two genocides: the Nazi Holocaust of Jews during World War II and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in eastern Turkey between 1915 and 1917.
The country already has a law criminalising Holocaust denial. The current bill extends that punishment to people who deny Armenians also suffered genocide.
Armenians say around 1.5 million people were either killed or died during forced deportations in eastern Turkey in 1915, at the height of World War I.