By Anna Saghabalian
Recognition of the Armenian genocide must be a precondition for Turkey’s membership in the European Union, the first secretary of France’s main opposition Socialist Party (PS) said during a visit to Armenia on Thursday.
Francois Hollande arrived in Yerevan at the invitation of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which has a warm rapport with his party. Official sources said Turkish-Armenian relations featured large during his separate talks with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
“It can’t be possible for us to accept a country that has not addressed its historical record into Europe,” Hollande said after the talks, expressing the PS’s position on Turkey’s membership in the EU. “We insist on that not to complicated but to facilitate Turkey’s accession process.”
The comments echoed statements made by France’s former President Jacques Chirac. "Should Turkey recognize the genocide of Armenia to join the European Union? Honestly, I believe so,” during an official visit to Yerevan in September last year.
Other EU leaders, however, have repeatedly spoken out against making Turkey’s accession to the 25-nation bloc contingent on genocide recognition.
Hollande reaffirmed his party’s support for a Socialist-drafted bill that would it a crime in France to publicly state that the 1915-1918 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman did not constitute a genocide. The bill was adopted by the lower house of the French parliament last year despite vehement protests from Ankara. To become a law, it needs to be passed by the French Senate.
Hollande denied that the PS initiative was aimed at winning the votes of France’s sizable Armenian community. “It’s not for electoral reasons that I make such a choice,” he told a news conference. “This bill is a matter of solidarity and honor. This is more than an Armenian issue because if the genocide is not remembered, nobody will be able to guarantee that there will be no repeat of such tragic events.”
Hollande went on to urge Turkey to unconditionally establishment diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia. A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry quoted him as telling Oskanian that this must happen “as soon as possible.” It said Oskanian briefed him on Yerevan’s position on Turkish-Armenian relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenia’s ties with France were also high on the agenda of the talks, with Kocharian saying that they are “strengthening every year” and encompassing new spheres. Hollande was cited by Kocharian’s office as saying that the French Socialists are ready to assist in the “implementation of new programs and proposals aimed at developing cooperation between the two countries.”