Turkey Lashes Out at France Over Armenian Bill, Diplomatic and Military Consultations Halted
Turkey halted diplomatic consultations and military dealings in a major rupture with France on Wednesday after the lower house of the French Parliament approved legislation making it a crime to deny that the Turkish army committed genocide against Armenians in the early 20th century.
“It is impossible for us to remain silent in face of this extremely intentional decision taken on false motives,” Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a televised statement. “We halt all kinds of political dialogue with France, cancel bilateral military functions and joint exercises as of now.”
The French bill mandates a 45,000-euro fine and a year in jail for “those who have praised, denied or roughly and publicly downplayed genocidal crimes, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.” It is not expected to be considered by the upper house until after the new year.
That Mr. Erdogan took such pronounced steps even before the bill becomes law underscores the obstacles facing Turkey’s reach for a new international profile and its long-frustrated efforts to join the European Union.
More than 15 countries have officially recognized the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in the chaos surrounding World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman empire as genocide, and its denial is already a crime in Switzerland and Slovenia.
Turkey acknowledges atrocities without any specific death toll, but says they did not constitute a systematic genocide. It argues that such a declaration should be a matter before an international committee of historians with access to state archives.
Turkey’s own penal code makes affirming the genocide a crime on the ground that it is an insult to Turkish identity. In March, Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize winner, was fined 7,000 lira, about $3,700, for his statement in a Swiss newspaper that “we have killed 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians.”
France’s moves toward outlawing denial of the Armenian genocide carries special weight, given the leading role Paris has played for the last six years in assessing Turkey’s readiness to join the European Union.
Television stations here followed the vote in live broadcasts from Paris, showing parliamentary debates in a barely filled hall and people protesting outside the building, waving Turkish flags behind security barriers. Another group of protesters gathered in front of the French Embassy in Ankara to lay a black wreath and chant slogans against France, NTV, a private television network, reported.