HOLLANDE TO STAND BY BAN ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE DENIAL
July 9 2012
Reuters, 10:20 a.m. CDT, July 9, 2012
* France reopens question of Armenia genocide ban
* Move throws into doubt renewed Franco-Turkish ties
PARIS, July 9 (Reuters) – French President Francois Hollande will
stand by a campaign pledge to make it illegal to deny that the killing
of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was genocide, his office said,
days after his foreign minister said the law had been abandoned.
Relations between Paris and Ankara had begun to thaw after a decision
in February by France’s constitutional court to strike down the
genocide denial law as contrary to free speech.
Turkey had cancelled all economic, political and military meetings
with France in December after the French parliament voted in favour
of the draft law.
At a joint news conference last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius said the law was unlikely to be resurrected and Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hailed the opening of a warmer phase in
relations with France.
But Hollande’s office said on Monday the president would stand by his
pledge, made to French Armenians while on the campaign trail ahead
of his election in May.
“The position is very clear, the commitment will be met,” a source
at Hollande’s office said.
Asked about Hollande’s decision, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said
Ankara was not prepared to act on unconfirmed reports and said recent
meetings in Paris had been positive.
“We will follow it and let’s see what the result will be,” he said.
Given the likelihood that the constitutional court would reject a
new law, weekly newspaper JDD reported that Hollande’s government
was examining alternative legal means, including penalising denial
via official decree.
Armenia, backed by many historians, says about 1.5 million Christian
Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World
War One in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman
Turkey says there was heavy loss of life on both sides during the
fighting in which Armenian partisans supported invading Russian
forces. The Ottoman Empire collapsed after the war. Successive Turkish
governments and the vast majority of Turks feel the charge of genocide
is an insult to their nation.
Turkey hopes Hollande’s election might mean France is more open to its
joining the European Union than under his conservative predecessor
Nicolas Sarkozy, but has so far received no public support for its
EU bid from Paris.
(Reporting By Julien Ponthus, additional reporting by Jonathon Burch
in Ankara, writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Janet Lawrence)