France's Sarkozy urges mutual respect of views with Turkey

23rd December 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy Friday urged the mutual respect of views between his country and Turkey amid a row over France's criminalisation of the denial of the Armenian genocide.

"I respect the views of our Turkish friends -- it's a great country, a great civilisation -- and they must respect ours," Sarkozy said in Prague where he is attending the funeral of late Czech president and revolution icon Vaclav Havel.

"France is not giving lessons to anyone but does not want them either," he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier accused Paris of committing "genocide" in its former colony Algeria after French lawmakers voted a bill criminalising the denial of Armenian genocide by Ottoman-era troops.

"France massacred an estimated 15 percent of the Algerian population starting from 1945. This is genocide," Erdogan told a news conference.

The Turkish premier also Sarkozy of "fanning hatred of Muslims and Turks for electoral gains."

"Under all circumstances, we must remain calm," Sarkozy said, adding: "France does not ask for permission, France has its convictions, human rights, and respect for memory."

During World War I hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turk forces. Armenia says 1.5 million died in a genocide, Turkey says around 500,000 died in fighting after they sided with a Russian invasion.

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on Turkey not to "overreact" to a bill that he insisted was a parliamentary initiative, and not a project of Sarkozy's government.

France has a 500,000-strong community of Armenian descent, many of whose forebears fled the killings a century ago, and French politicians assiduously court their votes every five years ahead of elections.

Turkey and many of Sarkozy's domestic opponents accuse him of jeopardising relations with a key NATO ally and trading partner to win Armenian votes in elections due next year.

© 2011 AFP

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