Azerbaijanis protest at France vote on Armenia 'genocide'
Activists in Azerbaijan held a rare street rally on Thursday in protest against the French parliament's vote on a law making it illegal to deny that the mass killings of Armenians during World War I was genocide.
Around 50 people from Azerbaijani diaspora and war veterans' groups demonstrated outside the French embassy in Baku, shouting slogans like "People of France, stop Sarkozy!" and "The French parliament should be fair!"
A statement was read out at the protest saying that the law would restrict freedom of speech and is aimed at courting the Armenian community in France, whose votes are being sought by President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party ahead of elections next year.
The French bill proposes to make it a crime to deny the century-old deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Turkish Ottoman forces amounted to a genocide.
Turkic-speaking, mainly Muslim Azerbaijan is an enemy of Armenia and a close ally of Turkey, which rejects the genocide allegation.
Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war in the 1990s over the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh, and no final peace deal has yet been signed despite years of negotiations.
An official at the Azerbaijani presidential administration said on Wednesday that there was no genocide of Armenians.
"Their claim is fabricated and has nothing to do with historical reality," said the official, Ali Hasanov.
© 2011 AFP