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ANKARA, (AFP) - Turkey lashed out at France Thursday for allowing the inauguration of a momument to commemorate the killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which Paris recognizes as genocide.

A foreign ministry statement said the inauguration of "this momument of hatred" had caused "regret and discontent" in Ankara. The momument was unveiled at a square in downtown Paris earlier Thursday despite efforts by Ankara to stop it.

In 2001, France triggered a storm in its relations Turkey when its parliament passed a law acknowledging as genocide the killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Ankara retaliated by sidelining French companies from public tenders and cancelled several projects awarded to French firms. Bilateral relations have only recently begun to warm up.

"It is extremely regretful that the deep-rooted Turkish-French ties, which are yet to be freed from the negative impacts of the so-called Armenian genocide law in 2001, have been allowed to be kept under strain in line with policies of third parties which distort history," the statement said. "We expect the French government to display the necessary sensitivity and prevent such negative developments from overshadowing our relations," it added.

Ankara believes that French politicians are backing Armenian campaigns for the recognition of the massacres as genocide in order to win the sympathy of France's sizable Armenian community.

(AP-Photolur photo: The statue of the late Armenian composer Komitas unveiled in Paris Thursday by the city's mayor, Bertrand Delanoe. The memorial is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.)
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