Azara Blog: France passes a silly law about Turkey and Armenia

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Date published: 2006/10/14

The BBC says:

The French parliament has adopted a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered "genocide" at the hands of the Turks, infuriating Turkey.

The bill, proposed by the Socialists and opposed by the government, needs approval from the Senate and president.

Turkey called the decision a "serious blow" to relations with France. It has already threatened economic sanctions.

Armenia says Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million people systematically in 1915 - a claim strongly denied by Turkey.

The European Commission has said that the bill, if passed into law, will "prohibit dialogue which is necessary for reconciliation" between Turkey and Armenia on the issue.

Turkey has been warning France for weeks not to pass the bill.

"Turkish-French relations, which have been meticulously developed over the centuries, took a severe blow today through the irresponsible initiatives of some short-sighted French politicians, based on unfounded allegations," the Turkish foreign ministry said.

The bill sponsored by the opposition Socialist party provides for a year in jail and a 45,000-euro (£30,000) fine - the same punishment that is imposed for denying the Nazi Holocaust.

The ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) did not back the law, but gave its deputies a free vote.

It passed by 106 votes to 19, after most deputies left the chamber in protest against what critics say is an attempt to attract votes of the some 500,000 people of Armenian descent in presidential elections next year.

One expects this kind of pathetic grandstanding from the US Congress, but now France has joined the club. Perhaps they should spend more time apologising for the appalling French behaviour in Algeria (and elsewhere), or indeed running their country rather better than they do, rather than trying to determine the only words that should be allowed to be used to describe historical events. Presumably the French Senate will have more common sense and let the bill die. But it would serve France right if they lost business in Turkey as a result of this cynical vote.

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