French Armenians challenge Turkey’s EU bid

French Armenians challenge Turkey’s EU bid

MARSEILLE, France, Oct 29 (AFP) – France’s Armenian community
said Friday it would appeal to President Jacques Chirac to prevent
negotiations on Turkish membership of the European Union until Turkey
acknowledged responsibility for a World War One massacre of Armenians.

The group’s attorney Philippe Krikorian said it would lodge an appeal
before the nation’s highest administrative tribunal, the Council of
State, requesting Chirac to oppose the start of such talks.

The subject of the Armenian massacre has remained a controversial one
touching Turkish and Armenian sensitivities for nigh on nine decades,
with Turkey consistently refusing to acknowledge that genocide had
occurred in 1915-1917 when up to 1.5 million Armenians died.

Turkey says that between 250,000 and 500,000 Armenians and thousands
of Turks were killed in civil strife during World War One, when the
Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers.

The French parliament passed legislation in 2001 stating that genocide
had occurred, thereby causing hard feelings in relations with Turkey.

Organisations, which represent some 450,000 French citizens of
Armenian origin, wished to protest against Chirac’s “willingness not
to subordinate the opening of negotiations to the prior admission of
the Armenian genocide,” said Krikorian.

Last month the European Commission recommended a start to membership
negotiations with Turkey, which has been lobbying for many years to
join the European Union.

Jean-Pierre Berberian, spokesman of a Marseille-based Armenian group,
noted that an EU summit would make the final decision in December on
whether to start negotiations.

Fifty days ahead of that date, it was time to “denounce the violation
by the French government of the terms of the resolution passed on
June 18, 1987 by the European Parliament and of French legislation
of January 2001 recognising the genocide of 1915,” said Berberian,
spokesman of the Euro-Armenia group here, and a Marseille city

Chirac has indicated his support for a start to talks, but many in
his ruling party, in the opposition and among the French public are
against Turkey’s EU membership.

“Not only is Jacques Chirac acting in violation of the law, he is
doing so against the will of a majority of French who are opposed to
Turkey’s membership,” said Berberian.

The text of the 2001 legislation passed by parliament here said France
“publicly recognises the Armenian genocide of 1915,” but did not
explicitly identify Turkey as responsible for the deed.