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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  • Comment number 241.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    France should better think of Algeria

    ....and Vandée ...

    a real genocide which is largely censored in France under the propaganda of the french revolution narrative

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.


    "Turkey have to solve the problem herself"

    Yes, I agree that this is completely Turkey's responsibility. And yet they've had almost 100 years to make things better and still they shrug and and say "meh, accidents happened" ... at what point do we say "you need to do more than just shrug" -- Personal responsibility is what I'm looking for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    While europe is busy criticizing Turkey for curbing freedome of speech for arresting Orhan Pamukh, They are giving a free path to France and other countries when they curb freedome of speech. A person has a right to deny Genocide. that is freedom of speech

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    No solid truth needs legal defence and repression

    this is true for the holocaust and any other historical event.

    The age of Inquisition and thought crimes is not finished yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Given these times of global economic crises and wars, I cannot believe that French lawmakers manage to find the time and resources right now to spend time on this sort of bill. Surely their working time would be better spent finding ways of alleviating their country`s financial, employment and social problems, as well as contributing to the resolution of global conflicts that threaten world peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.


    You appear to be missing the point. Whilst your statement is somewhat truthful, none of those atrocities you mention are now denied...
    The Turks steadfastly maintain that they DID NOT systematically kill non-Muslim Armenians, Assyrians & Greeks and take their land & belongings.
    The irony of the Turkish politicians playing the 'racist' card is certainly not lost on me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    The tragedy of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was that he was opposed to this bill becoming law, however that did not stop Ogün Samast from shooting him for for saying that the Armenian Genocide actually happened. Call it Law 301, call it a death sentence to "insult Turkishness" -- something needs to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    @ Sonnet Monger
    "I hope Turkey will follow Germany, apologize for the crimes of its past, move on, becoming a stronger nation, instead of lingering in the history and denial."
    as Germany the Turkey have to solve the problem herself.
    French law is hypocrite and don't help to solve the problem, instead it complicate the relationship between the parts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    So the French bill covers "all" acts of genocide does it? But first a barbarity has to be recognized as a genocide which gives the French wiggle room as to applying definitions. What about the murder of 10 million Ukrainians through deliberate enforced starvation by Stalin and his Russian henchmen in 1932-33? How has this escaped the notice of the French parliament? Is Russian oil & gas so dear?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Whatever France did, did right, it is their country, they can do what they want, and if someone doesn't like that they can get out of there. As simple as that. And they didn't do smth wrong, they just don't allow people to tell lies about Armenian genocide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    French Senate panel dealt blow Govt's plans to make it illegal to deny mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago = genocide. In a striking development, the Commission of Laws in the Senate - upper house of parliament - voted 23-9, with 8 abstentions, that such a bill, if passed, could violate constitutional protections including freedom of speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    The civilised world has condemned genocide in any shape and form. History of the 20th century is well documented including the Armenian genocide, Jewish holocaust and more recent tragic episodes. If anti-Semitic comments force the most powerful people to tremble and apologise why can denying other people's suffering go unpunished? Turkish society should deal with its skeletons in the closet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    I am a Turkish citizen and I certainly believe we have to admit what happened in the past. In the mean time believing the democracy and freedom of speech is very important and Turkey is making big noise about this law which they are right because this is an anti-democratic law. However Turkey has similar law (called 301) who ever says that the genocide happen is going to jail, kind of irony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    EVERY major country in the world has "genocide" in its closet!!! only the Christain nations can make a point about it...... ask the Africans, American Indians, Asians, Australian Aborigines about what happened to them in the past!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    As an Armenian Peace Corps volunteer, it is hard to hear the Turkey refer to the French bill as racist, like it's hard to listen to Japanese refer to accusations of what happened in Nanking as racist. Terrible things happened. I hope Turkey will follow Germany, apologize for the crimes of its past, move on, becoming a stronger nation, instead of lingering in the history and denial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    So Russia's signed up to call it genocide. Do we call the systematic ethnic cleansing of Poles/Ukranians/Czechs/Chechens etc.etc. to gulags genocide? I don't suppose so.

    It is widely accepted that France killed tens of thousands of Algerian civilians in the fifties. The French authorities dispute the figures, just like Turkey does now.

    Maybe Turkey will outlaw denial of this 'genocide'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Firstly, this law is not about the Armenian genocide by Turkey, but forbids the denying of any genocide. The "armenian" aspect of this law is only highlighted because of the authority of Istanbul...
    I would like to remember to everybody that this law is part of a national debate, therefore no foreign government has any word to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    The Turks should accept that it's ancestors did cause a terrible act at the enormous suffering that the Armenian people went through in 1915. However I don't think this has anything to do with justice, and certaintly the French are the least of all people to take any high moral ground. Lets talk about Algeria, Chad etc never mind Napoleon. Purely political posturing as they don't like Turkey

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Also forgot to say that my government has offered to discuss this problem in a joint committee, however, neither French nor Armenian government accepted this!!
    We might have done genocide or might not but if you're talking about human rights or fair, first you should prove it and decide as a guilty or not. Historians should discuss this instead of politicians who want to get votes! from Armenians.


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