Turkey Urges French Senate Not To Pass Genocide Denial Bill
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday asked the French Senate not to vote the bill that criminalizes the denial of the Armenian genocide, which is expected to become a law soon. Davutoglu urged the French senators not to leave a black stain on the intellectual history of their country. The move comes after Turkey froze diplomatic, military and economic ties with Turkey following the vote in favor of the bill in the National Assembly.
The bill is to be debated on Monday and it is likely to be approved in spite of the warning received by senators from one of the Senate’s commission. According to the new law, those found guilty of denying the Armenian genocide will spend one year in prison and will have to pay a 45,000 euros fine.
There is suspicion in Turkey that the bill on genocide denial is no more than a way to win the votes of the Armenians living in France, which have a 500,000 community, and could make a difference in the presidential election in Spring.
On Friday, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy has sent a conciliatory letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, in which the French president was expressing hope that dialogue could be preserved between friends and allies, and that reason would prevail.
He added that the bill the parliament is about to pass was in no way aiming at any country or people. In turn, Ahmet Davutoglu said he was expecting France and its officials to respect European values.
Armenian historians say that 1.5 million Armenian people were killed in 1915-1916 during the WWI, at a time the Ottoman Empire was disbanding and the situation was very tense.
The Turkish officials have always stated that the Ottoman Empire did not kill the people on purpose, and that there was no plan to kill them. They say that 300,000 died on that occasion in clashes and that many of them were Turks.
About 20 countries have acknowledged the genocide of the Armenians, but the problem is still very sensible to Turkish nationals and to the officials, even some intellectuals in Turkey have demanded prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to recognize the genocide.
The tension escalated between Turkey and Israel last year, as the Jewish state debated in the Knesset the possibility of imposing a similar law that would recognize the Armenian genocide.
As the ties between Israel and Turkey are already frozen, no official decision was made, leaving the education committee of the Knesset the responsibility to debate further on a day of observance in Israel of the Armenian genocide.11