Turkey Warns Sarkozy Over Armenian Genocide Law
Turkey warned French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday against signing a law that makes it a crime to deny that the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago constituted genocide.
France's parliament approved the bill late Monday over Turkish objections. Officials in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government insisted the vote didn't directly target the country.
Turkey, which sees the characterization of genocide for its anti-Armenian pogroms as an insult to its national honor, has already suspended military, economic and political ties with Paris, and briefly recalled its ambassador last month when the lower house of French parliament approved the same bill.
The Senate voted 127 to 86 to pass the bill late Monday. Twenty-four people abstained. The measure sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of C45,000 ($59,000) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize" the killings.
For some in France, the bill is part of a tradition of legislation in some European countries, born of the agonies of the Holocaust, which criminalizes the denial of genocide. Denying the Holocaust is already a punishable crime in France.
Most historians contend that the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians as the Ottoman Empire broke up was the 20th century's first genocide, and several European countries recognize the massacres as such. Switzerland has convicted people of racism for denying the genocide.
The harsh crackdown came during an ongoing Russian-backed series of Armenian rebellions in Turkey. Armenians call the massacre "The Great Crime."
However, there are those who feel referring to the pogroms carried out by Turkey against the Armenians Genocide cheapens the Holocaust as the Jews of Europe were peaceful members of European society striving to be good citizens.
Turkey's pogroms - The Great Crime - came in response to a widespread Russian-backed Armenian rebellion.
Officials in Ankara say there was no systematic campaign to kill Armenians and that many Turks also died during the chaotic disintegration of the empire. It also says that death toll is inflated.
Sarkozy, whose party supported the bill, must sign it into law, but that is largely considered a formality.
The office of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey would take further, unspecified steps to punish France if Sarkozy follows through.
Analysts say, however, with Sarkozy up for re-election and some 400,000 ethnic Armenians holding French citizenship he is unlikely to be dissuaded.