Turkey PM says French bill on genocide denial 'racist'


Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "This law has no validity"

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The Turkish prime minister has said a bill passed by the French parliament on the mass killing of Armenians under Ottoman rule is "racist".

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Turkish parliament in Ankara that the bill "murdered freedom of thought".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of February.

Armenia says that up to 1.5 million people died in 1915-16 as the Ottoman empire split.

Turkey, which rejects the term "genocide", has said the number of deaths was much smaller.

Defenders of the bill point out that it covers all acts of genocide.

'Footsteps of fascism'

"This is a racist and discriminatory approach and if you cannot see this, then you are deaf to the footsteps of fascism in Europe," Mr Erdogan said on Tuesday, a day after the bill was adopted by the French Senate.

Turkey, he added, hoped for the success of a French appeal against the bill to the constitutional commission.

"We will wait and see the developments and decide on our reply to them," he said.


There has been plenty of strong comment by Turkish officials and in the media over the newly approved genocide bill - one paper likened President Sarkozy to Satan - but in his first comments Prime Minister Erdogan was surprisingly restrained.

For us this law has no validity, he told MPs from his party in Ankara - it will take European values right back to mediaeval times. Turkey, he said, is a big power now - nobody can play games with us.

Mr Erdogan said he would take retaliatory measures against France if President Sarkozy approved the law but did not spell out what they would be, nor did he encourage Turkish people to show their own displeasure.

Beyond symbolic sanctions, like withdrawing its ambassador, it is not clear what Turkey can do. France is its fifth biggest trade partner but economic sanctions are impossible because of the free-trade agreement Turkey has with the EU.

However political and diplomatic relations will remain frozen for some time, especially if Mr Sarkozy is re-elected later this year, and that cannot help Turkey's already faltering candidacy for EU membership.

Earlier, the Turkish foreign ministry warned that Turkey planned to respond with unspecified measures against France.

It appeared to tie the bill to France's forthcoming elections.

"It is further unfortunate that the historical... relations between the Republic of Turkey and France have been sacrificed to considerations of political agenda,'' the ministry said.

An estimated 500,000 ethnic Armenians live in the country.

Correspondents say the French bill threatens to cause a serious rift between France and Turkey, who are Nato allies.

The Turkish government argues that judging what happened in eastern Turkey in 1915-16 should be left to historians, and that the new French law will restrict freedom of speech.

France has already recognised the killings as a genocide but the new bill means anyone denying it faces a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).

The killings are regarded as the seminal event of modern Armenian history, a tragic bond uniting one of the world's most dispersed peoples.

Among the other states which formally recognise them as genocide are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Russia and Uruguay, but the UK, US, Israel and others use different terminology.

Armenia has described Monday's vote - by 127 votes to 86 - as "historic".

"This day will be written in gold not only in the history of friendship between the Armenian and French peoples, but also in the annals of the history of the protection of human rights," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian.

France and Turkey in figures

  • France is Turkey's fifth biggest export market and the sixth biggest source of its imports
  • Volume of trade in 2010: 11.6bn euros with a surplus of 862m euros in France's favour
  • About 350 French companies were active in Turkey in 2010
  • About 550,000 Turkish citizens live in France while nearly 930,000 French tourists visited Turkey in 2010
  • sources: Turkish foreign ministry and Reuters news agency

However, in neighbouring Azerbaijan, a senior member of the ruling party said France's credibility as a mediator with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute had been damaged and it should abandon its role there.

"France has betrayed its mediator mission," said Ali Ahmadov, executive secretary of the New Azerbaijan Party.

Ankara froze ties with France after the lower house passed the bill last month.

The proposed law had been made more general - outlawing the denial of any genocide - but still failed to appease Ankara.

Last week, President Sarkozy wrote to Mr Erdogan saying the bill did not single out any country.

He said France recognised the "suffering endured by the Turkish people" in the final years of the Ottoman empire.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero called on Turkey not to overreact, saying Paris considered Ankara a "very important ally".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Genocide has become an overused word used by almost every ethnic group who has a grievance against another group. Where a government has a systematic policy as eg the NAZI govt regarding the Jews it is fair enough. It is not acceptable for a govt in this case France to decide if something is genocide when the facts or circumstances are in dispute.If you consider Stalin's deportations genocide tbc

  • Comment number 160.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 159.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    If it is not true how is it that Mustafa "Ataturk" Kemal founder of modern Turkey once said quote
    "These left-overs from the former Young Turk Party, who should have been made to account for the millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred have been restive under the Republican rule."

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Turkey as a country really needs to grow up.
    Accept your past, however bad/good it is...

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Turkey denys the genocide today just as they have done since they lost the war. Other countries have accepted the blame for their own wrong doings such as Germany to the Jews, America to the Native Americans, and Australia to the Aborigines it is time Turkey accepted theirs so we can all move on to important issues we all face today like stopping Turkey from killing all the Kurds!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    According to Dvid Markham in the book called Napolean in the Middle East the French Army By the order of Napolean has captured and killed 4000 Turkish Prisinors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Turkey has a history of aggressive behaviour towards other nations, invasion, annexation and oppression. It should not be surprised when others point this out. Having the French do it is, of course, somewhat hypocritical but hey......fact is fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    We Turks have made a terrible mistake for decades by totally overlooking the enormous suffering that the Armenian people went through in 1915.However, this law has a total aspect of politics as we approaching to election times in France and it does/will not achieve anything apart from generating more hatered between the nations.Historicans should talk not politicians!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Genocide denial is wrong!!!! As an Armenian, I couldn't care less if the US, UK or France recognizes the Genocide or passes any legislation regarding it. What I do care about is Turkey accepting that it has done wrong and apologizing for the Armenian Genocide. Why is it ok for a law to criminalize the Jewish holocaust, but not the Armenian Genocide? The Turkish Government are cowards!! Simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I think it is a good thing that Turkey is being so indignant about all this - its further ammo for not allowing them into the EU and making the union even worse than it is at present

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    1) France passed a law for French people and it condemns the denial of all genocides: Turks have no right to interfere with France's internal affairs 2) There are 7 mil. Armenians dispersed around the world because of the Genocide 3) There are facts proving it and Turkish intellectuals call for Turkish people to recognise it and move forward (e.g. Noble Prize winner Orhan Pamuk or Taner Ak├žam).

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    It is a bit rich coming from the French to raise this issue that doesn't concern them. France should first review its own past atrocities. On the other hand, Turkey can only gain by revisiting its brutal past. Barring Germany, no other nation has yet revisited its brutal past - England, France, Spain, Portugal, US, ... Atrocities from the colonial or martial eras need to be finally dealt with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    3. This is freedom this is human rights. I believe some of you think how can I talk like that especially Turkish Democracy is one of the worst one in Europe. You probably right but we are improving our selves to forward not the opposite direction. In the last years of the Ottoman Empire, French and Armenian forces attacked and killed my people in Southern and Southeastern Anatolia.

  • Comment number 147.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I think the poilitics of EU is way out of line with no clear and convincing international front. Its all a mess.

    Turkey doesnt recognize the killings of 100 000s armenians as a genocide but the leaders are very swift on signing that when they recognize "Srebrenica" as a genocide?

    It makes you wonder what in the world is the definition of genocide? And who should have the right to define it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    This is an attack by Frnace on free speech, although after Sarkozy's recent tragic attempts at populism (Roma repatriations, burka bans), it doesn't surprise me.

    How would the French feel if a country made it illegal to say that Napoleon was anything other than a power-crazed little dictator?

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Let me get this right....France, UK, Spain committed crimes as colonial powers (well documented and not denied by any of them).....this therefore means that they should have no say in anything.....and in turn crimes/genocides by other countries denied!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    France are only doing this for votes, everyone forgets the Turkish that died in that war, This is nothing more than sad French Parliamentary tactics to get votes, the past should be left in the past and if it is a problem then it is for the Turks and the Armenians to sort out not the French...

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    There seems to be an awful lot of missing the point in these comments. The issue is not whether there was genocide, but that there will now be a law in France making it illegal to suggest there wasn't. Were we in France, several of those commenting here would now be facing a spell behind bars.


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