Crisis Looms In Turkish-French Ties Over Genocide Bill

by Hande Culpan

Agence France Presse — English
October 10, 2006 Tuesday

Ankara launched a scathing attack against Paris on Tuesday, accusing
it of losing its reason over a draft law on the World War I massacres
of Armenians and warning that bilateral ties will suffer if the bill
is enacted.

The draft, scheduled for debate and a vote before the French National
Assembly on Thursday, calls for one year in prison and a 45,000 euro
(57,000 dollar) fine for anyone who denies that Armenians were the
victims of a genocide under the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of
modern Turkey.

"We expect Paris to avoid this blunder, this political accident
that will harm Turkish-French relations," Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the parliamentary group of his Justice and
Development Party in a speech interrupted by applause.

"The EU must absolutely take a stand against this eclipse of reason
in France," he said, charging that the bill would violate freedom
of expression, a basic EU norm that Turkey itself is under pressure
to respect.

Drawn up by the Socialist opposition, the bill was first submitted
in May, but the debate ran out of time after filibustering from the
ruling UMP party bloc.

Turkish officials believe it stands a good chance of being voted
Thursday — as a gesture to France’s large Armenian community ahead
of legislative elections next year — as many lawmakers opposed to
the bill will be away in their constituencies.

Ankara has warned that French firms will be barred from major tenders,
including one for the planned construction of the country’s first
nuclear power plant, if the bill is accepted.

"The French will lose Turkey," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned
on Sunday.

The Ankara Chamber of Commerce, which groups some 3,200 businesses,
and the Consumers’ Union, a non-governmental consumer rights group,
have threatend to boycott French goods.

In 2001, Turkey sidelined French companies from public tenders and
cancelled projects awarded to French firms when parliament adopted
a resolution recognising the massacres as genocide.

At stake now is a flourishing trade between the two countries that
totalled 8.2 billion euros (10 billion dolars) in 2005.

About 250 French firms are active in Turkey, providing employment
for about 65,000 people.

France also plays a leading role in foreign direct investment in
Turkey with 2.1 billion dollars (1.6 billion euros) last year and 328
million dollars (260 million euros) in the first seven months of 2006.

But some commentators have warned that suspending economic ties with
France would have a bruising affect on Turkey, for which foreign
investment is vital as it recovers from two severe financial crises.

Turkey could also retaliate politically, keeping bilateral contacts at
a minimum and at the lowest diplomatic level and possibly cancelling
bilateral visits.

One senior lawmaker warned the Turkish parliament could retaliate with
a law proclaiming the killing of Algerians under French colonial rule
as genocide and its denial a jailable offense, but Erdogan rejected
the suggestion.

"No," he said, "we will not retaliate in kind — we do not clean
filth with filth."

The Armenian massacres are one of most controversial episodes in
Turkish history and open debate on the issue has only recently begun
in Turkey, often sending nationalist sentiment into frenzy.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in
orchestrated killings between 1915 and 1917.

Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label, arguing that
300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife
when Armenians rose for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided
with invading Russian troops as the Ottoman Empire fell apart.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS