Turkey Imposes Sanctions After French Parliamentary Approval of Genocide Bill

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey has reacted angrily to a vote in the lower house of the French parliament making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago was genocide.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War I by troops of Turkey's Ottoman Empire, which historians say was one of the 20th century's worst massacres. Turkey, while acknowledging the loss of Armenian lives, says the death toll has been exaggerated and does not amount to genocide. It says the deaths were the result of civil war.

The legislation makes it a crime punishable by a fine of nearly $60,00 and up to a year in jail for genocide deniers. It won overwhelming approval in the lower house and now goes to the French Senate for consideration. Supporters hope it will become French law by the end of February ahead of next year's presidential and and parliamentary elections.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France and is banning the French navy from using Turkish territorial waters. It also has imposed restrictions on the use of Turkish air space by French military aircraft.

Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has accused French President Nickolas Sarkozy of pandering to the hundreds of thousands of French citizens of Armenian descent. Mr. Erdogan suggested the possibility of additional sanctions.

France expressed regret about the Turkish reaction in a statement issued by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who called France and Turkey strategic partners. Both countries are members of NATO.

The draft legislation is general in nature, punishing those who deny any genocide recognized by the French state. A bill that would have criminalized specific denial of the Armenian genocide died in the French Senate earlier this year.

Relations between France and Turkey have been frozen for some time over French opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.