Turkey Slams France Over ‘Genocide’ Bill, Armenia Hails Vote

Posted January 24th, 2012 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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An aide to French President Nicolas Sarkozy says the president will sign the Armenian genocide bill into law within two weeks, despite the threat of Turkish sanctions.

The French Senate passed the bill Monday making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Turks nearly 100 years ago was genocide. The lower house passed it last month.

A furious Turkey condemns the bill as discriminatory and racist. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday said Turkey will impose sanctions against France “step by step.” He did not say what those sanctions will be.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan says France has reaffirmed its devotion to universal human values. He called it a historic day for Armenians all over the world, and praised Mr. Sarkozy for his personal commitment to the bill.

The human rights group Amnesty International says the new law would have a “chilling effect” on public debate and freedom of expression in France.

Under the bill, anyone who says the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks is not genocide faces a $60,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War I by troops of Turkey's Ottoman Empire. Turkey says Armenians were killed as part of a civil war and says the death toll is exaggerated. It says the deaths do not constitute genocide.

Turkey briefly recalled its ambassador to France when the lower house passed the bill in December. It also banned the French navy from using its territorial waters and restricted French military jets from using its airspace. The French Foreign Ministry calls on Turkey not to overreact, saying France considers Turkey a “very important ally.”

Prime Minister Erdogan says France committed genocide in Algeria more than 60 years ago, murdering 15 percent of Algeria's population from 1945 until Algeria became independent in 1962. He also accuses Mr. Sarkozy of pandering to the hundreds of thousands of French voters of Armenian descent because he plans to run for re-election this year.