French Lawmakers Pass Armenia Genocide Bill

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 3:20 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

France's lower house of parliament Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill making it a crime to publicly deny as genocide the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago.

The Senate, or upper house, must still pass the bill for it to become law.

Armenia welcomed passage of the bill, while Turkey angrily rejected it and announced plans to recall its ambassador to France. Turkey also said it would ask the French ambassador in Ankara to leave.

In addition, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said French military flights over NATO partner Turkey would be restricted.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc called the bill a “betrayal of history.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe urged Turkey not to overreact.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed by troops of the former Ottoman empire before and during World War One. Turkey says the killings did not constitute genocide. It says the death toll was exaggerated, and that the dead were victims of civil war and unrest.

The new bill punishes anyone who publicly denies the killings were genocide, with up to a year in jail and a $60,000 fine.

Turkey had warned of “grave consequences” to economic and political ties between the two countries if the law passed.

Turkey said it may also exclude French companies from public contracts. Turkey and France are big trading partners.

Earlier this week, Turkish President Abdullah Gul suggested the timing of the bill was part of an effort by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to gain support from France's 400,000 Armenians in his re-election bid.

Bilateral relations between France and Turkey are already strained because President Sarkozy opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union.