Turkey ratcheted up pressure on France on Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to scuttle the passage by the French parliament of a bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide.
“It is not possible for us to accept this bill, which denies us the freedom to reject unfair and groundless accusations targeting our country and our nation,” Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in a statement cited by the AFP news agency.
“I want to hope that France will not sacrifice centuries-old Turkish-French friendship, common interests and bonds of alliance for small political calculations,” Gul said in reference to next year's presidential and parliamentary elections in France.
France has an estimated 500,000 citizens of Armenian descent.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan likewise warned late last week of “grave consequences” for bilateral relations if the bill is approved by the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament.
Under the proposed legislation, which is due to be debated on Thursday, anyone in France publicly denying that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide could face a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000). French President Nicolas Sarkozy signaled support for its passage when he visited Yerevan in October.
Gul issued the warning as a delegation of Turkish lawmakers and businessmen met with
officials in Paris and urged France to drop the bill. “If this law is adopted, there will be a lot of damage and consequences for the two countries,” said Rifat Hisarciklioglu,
head of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges.
A Turkish government source told AFP on Tuesday that Ankara will impose diplomatic and trade sanctions on Paris if French lawmakers adopt the law. “Turkey will not remain silent. That will obviously have consequences,” the source said. “We have already discussed our plans if the bill is adopted at the French National Assembly on Thursday.”
In particular, added the source, close to 1,000 French companies in Turkey, as well as those in partnership with Turkish companies, will be excluded from public contracts, especially in the field of transport.
The French Foreign Ministry warned the Turkish government against resorting to economic reprisals. According to the DPA news agency, ministry spokesman Bernard Valero reminded Ankara of its international commitments.
Turkey's membership of the World Trade Organization and customs union with the European Union “imply a non-discriminatory treatment with regard to companies from the European Union,” Valero said.