Erdogan warns France over 'unjust' Armenia genocide bill

17th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged French lawmakers Saturday not to adopt an Armenia genocide bill, warning again that the legislation would damage ties between the two countries.

The legislation set to be voted on by the French parliament next Thursday would make it a crime to deny that the killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire were genocide, a move long resisted by Ankara.

"I hope that the French National Assembly will reverse this error of penalising the denial of historical lies," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, lashing out at France over its own bloody colonial past.

"Turkey will oppose by all diplomatic means these populist, unjust and illegal moves," he said, describing the bill as "electioneering" ahead of the French presidential election next year.

Erdogan has written to French President Nicolas Sarkozy urging him to block the bill, or face "serious and irreparable" consequences on Franco-Turkish relations.

"If the French lawmakers want to remember history, I would advise them to shed light on the events of Algeria and Rwanda and the roles of French soldiers," he said.

"No historian, no politician can see genocide in our past. Those who want to see genocide should look to their own dirty and bloody history."

If the law is passed as expected next week, anyone in France who publicly denies the genocide could face a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000).

Armenia says up to 1.5 million of its people were killed during World War I by forces belonging to Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.

Turkey rejects the term genocide and says between 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died in combat or of starvation when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian forces.

Most historians agree that between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians died in a series of massacres and deportations from Asia Minor in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916.

France, which has a large population of Armenian descent, has recognised the killings as genocide since 2001.

© 2011 AFP

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