Armenian genocide is 'fact of history': France

21st December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Armenian genocide is a "fact of history" and a proposed French law making it illegal to deny this has nothing to do with upcoming elections, France's minister for Europe said on Wednesday.

"Today all peoples must be lucid and courageous in looking at their history. It has been nearly 100 years since the Armenian genocide took place, those responsible are dead, it is simply a matter of recognising a fact of history," European Affairs Minister Jean Leonetti told Radio Classique.

The French parliament is to debate the bill, which would see anyone in France who publicly denies the genocide facing a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000), on Thursday and is expected to approve it.

Turkey has piled pressure on France to drop the law ahead of the vote, with President Abdullah Gul and a Turkish delegation to Paris on Tuesday warning its adoption will spark a diplomatic crisis and have economic consequences.

Turkish officials have accused authorities of backing the bill to win votes with France's Armenian minority, estimated to number between 300,000 and 500,000 people, ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

But Leonetti noted that the opposition Socialists were planning to back the bill along with the ruling UMP party.

"If this was to win votes, I don't think the opposition would vote (for the law). But the Socialists will vote for this bill, which comes from a deputy, not from the government," he said.

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 and 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died in combat or from starvation when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian forces.

France recognised the killings as genocide in 2001.

© 2011 AFP

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