Turkey Warns France Over Genocide Draft Bill

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called on France to drop a parliamentary bill that would make it illegal to deny the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was genocide.

Mr Gul issued a strong statement to France Tuesday, saying it was not possible for Turkey to accept a draft law which denies the freedom to reject unjust and groundless accusations targeting Turkey.

The lower house of France's parliament will debate the draft law on Thursday. If passed, the law would punish genocide denials with a year in prison and a fine of $58,500.

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 the killings constitute genocide. It says the death toll was exaggerated and the dead were victims of civil war and unrest.

Turkey has also warned of “grave consequences” to economic and political relations between the two countries if the law passes. Turkey says it will recall its Paris ambassador for consultations and ask the French ambassador to leave Ankara.

President Gul also insinuated that the timing of the draft law is aimed at winning the votes of Armenian-French citizens in upcoming elections. Bilateral relations between France and Turkey are already strained because French President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union.