PARIS, (AFP) - Turkey should recognize the mass killings of Armenians in 1915-1917 as a genocide, a French junior minister said Sunday, in comments likely to further rile Ankara after Paris helped stall its EU membership bid.
"To go forward, it is necessary to also acknowledge the past," junior foreign minister Renaud Muselier told Radio J. "I believe that it's a move that is important both in terms of wisdom and of balance," he added.
Turkey has bitterly resisted France's view that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman empire constituted a genocide. Around 1.5 million Armenians died during the killings and deportations between 1915 and 1917, according to Armenia. Turkey sets the figure at between 250,000 and 500,000.
A law passed by the French parliament in January 2001 recognizing the Armenian "genocide" prompted Ankara to scrap a number of joint projects with France, mainly in the lucrative defence industry sector, and to recall its ambassador from Paris.
Relations only started to warm up again in January this year. But they hit a rocky patch again this month during an EU summit in Copenhagen at which Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul accused French President Jacques Chirac of spearheading a decision to postpone evaluation of Turkey's EU candidacy bid for at least two years.