Turkey Urges French Lawmakers to Reject Genocide Bill

Posted January 20th, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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Turkey has urged French lawmakers to reject a bill making it illegal to deny as genocide the mass killings of Armenians during Turkey's Ottoman era nearly a century ago.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on all French senators Friday to think beyond their political interests.

He said passage of the bill would create a black stain on France's intellectual history, noting that Turkey will always remind the French of that stain.

The French senate plans to debate the bill next week. France's lower house of parliament passed it last month.

Earlier this week, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the bill does not single out a particular country.

The bill says anyone that denies the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces constituted genocide faces a nearly $60,000 fine and up to one year in jail. France formally recognized the Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, but imposed no penalty for anyone refuting that.

Turkey responded angrily to passage of the bill by France's lower house of parliament.

Mr. Erdogan accused France of committing genocide in Algeria more than 60 years ago. He said French colonialists massacred 15 percent of Algeria's population starting in 1945. He has also accused Mr. Sarkozy of pandering to the hundreds of thousands of French citizens of Armenian descent heading into his re-election bid this year.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said Mr. Sarkozy is “prejudiced” against Turkey.

Relations between France and Turkey, both members of NATO, have been frozen due to French opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

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