ISTANBUL: Genocide bill won’t end relations with France, AK Party

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Jan 4 2012

Genocide bill won’t end relations with France, AK Party deputy says

4 January 2012 / ALÄ° ASLAN KILIÃ?, ANKARA

The president of the Turko-French inter-parliamentary friendship
group, who resigned due to intense pressure from the Turkish public
following the passage of a bill through the French lower house of
parliament on Dec. 22 seeking to make it illegal to deny that the mass
killings of Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turks were genocide, stated
that the genocide bill does not spell the end of relations with
France, which have a long history.
The bill will now be placed on the agenda of the French senate.

In an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman on Tuesday, Mehmet Kasım
Gülpınar, head of the inter-parliamentary friendship group with France
and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Å?anlıurfa deputy, said he
resigned against his will due to mounting public pressure, and
expressed his sadness over the deteriorating relations with France,
which has had diplomatic relations with Turkey for centuries.

Noting that the group still exists in legal terms even though most of
the lawmakers have resigned, Gülpınar pointed out that it would be
better to keep the channels of communication open with the French
parliament through the friendship group, at least until the senate
votes on the bill, which will probably be at the end of January. Open
communication might facilitate future efforts to stop approval of the
bill in the senate.

`The genocide bill is not the end of everything. The friendship
between the two countries has a history and must endure forever,’
Gülpınar said. He added that dropping the bill in the upcoming months
could restore the rancorous political ties between Turkey and France.

Gülpınar, educated at the French-speaking Tevfik Fikret High School in
Ankara, said he was puzzled by the French parliament’s decision,
saying he had a hard time explaining the significance of the bill to
his own family. `Even my kids asked me if we would still be able to go
to Disneyland in Paris after the passage of the bill,’ he said. He
added that the bill made his job of promoting bilateral ties very
difficult. `I found my French colleagues sharing my concerns over this
bill as well,’ he noted. Gülpınar expressed his hope that sensible
French politicians will set things right by killing the bill in the
senate.

Ankara reacted furiously when the lower house of the French parliament
approved the bill in late December, recalling its ambassador from
Paris, banning French military aircraft and warships from landing and
docking in Turkey and suspending political and economic meetings.

Prime Minister Tayyip Recep ErdoÄ?an slammed the bill as `politics
based on racism, discrimination and xenophobia’ and turned his anger
on French President Nicolas Sarkozy, accusing France of colonial
massacres in Algeria.

The bill makes denial of the alleged Armenian genocide a crime
punishable by a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros.

`The bill is a fatal blow to freedom of expression. The bill also put
the freedom to travel at risk, in view of the potential penalties
[that Turks might face in France],’ Gülpınar said, to emphasize that
the bill may negatively affect tourism, as most Turks might not choose
France as their vacation destination.

Gülpınar said he hopes the French senate will drop the bill. He noted
that the senate’s possible quashing of the bill will mend fences and
bolster cooperation between the two countries.

The inter-parliamentary group consisted of 357 members, most of whom
were lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK
Party), while there were also members from other parties in the
Turkish Parliament.

Unlike other inter-parliamentary groups, all parties from the Turkish
Parliament were represented in the executive council of the
Turko-French inter-parliamentary friendship group. Deputies from the
AK Party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peace and Democracy
Party (BDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) formed the
executive board, which comprised nine members. AK Party Å?anlıurfa
deputy Gülpınar led the group’s activities. Roughly 290 members of the
group were AK Party deputies.

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