France’s President Francois Hollande on Tuesday urged Turkey to recognize the 1915 massacres of Armenians as genocide, saying that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent statement acknowledging their suffering is not sufficient.
Hollande said that while Erdogan’s decision to extend first-ever official Turkish condolences to the descendants of the genocide victims was “positive” Ankara should go further. “What needs to be achieved is the recognition of the genocide,” he said during an official trip to Armenia.
Hollande made a point of visiting the genocide memorial in Yerevan and laying a wreath and flowers there on Monday evening. He was accompanied by President Serzh Sarkisian.
In an unprecedented statement issued ahead of the 99th anniversary of the genocide marked on April 24, Erdogan admitted that Armenians suffered “inhumane consequences” during their “relocation” ordered by the Ottoman government. But he stopped short of acknowledging a premeditated government effort to exterminate Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian population. Even so, his declaration marked a further softening of Ankara’s decades-long policy of aggressive genocide denial.
Erdogan’s statement was welcomed by the European Union and the United States. The U.S. State Department called it “historic.”
France formally recognized the Armenian genocide with a special law passed in 2001. The French parliament went further a decade later when it adopted a law criminalizing public denial of the genocide at the initiative of Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. The law was struck down by France’s Constitutional Court in 2012.
Hollande has promised to the influential Armenian community in France that his government and the ruling Socialist Party will enact similar legislation. He has yet to fulfill that pledge.
Speaking to French journalists in Yerevan earlier on Tuesday, Hollande implied that his administration is treading carefully on the sensitive subject because it fears that the French court could overturn the new law as well. He also confirmed that he will again visit Armenia in April 2015 to take part in official ceremonies that will mark the centenary of the genocide.