Turkish PM Lashes Out at France Over Genocide Bill

Posted December 17th, 2011 at 6:00 pm (UTC-5)
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A French bill that would make it a crime to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 was genocide is drawing criticism from Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at France Saturday, during a news conference in Ankara with the chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil.

Mr. Erdogan denied the Ottoman Empire committed genocide and said France needed to look at what he called its own “dirty and bloody history'' in Algeria and Rwanda.

French lawmakers are set to consider the bill next Thursday . It proposes a one-year prison sentence and a $58,500 fine for denying the killings constitute genocide.

Armenia says as many as 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman Turks before and during World War One and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Ankara denies this. It calls the death toll exaggerated and says the dead were victims of civil war and unrest.

The Turkish prime minister also warned France that political and economic relations would suffer if the bill passes. Turkey has said any country recognizing an Armenian genocide faces a downgrade in relations.

Bilateral relations between France and Turkey have already been under strain. French President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union.