Turkey reportedly threatened on Thursday to recall its ambassador to France and freeze ties with Paris if the French parliament passes next week a bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused French lawmakers of seeking to “dishonor” his country.
Under the bill which will be debated by the National Assembly on December 22, 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.
“There will be irreparable consequences in all bilateral relations,” Turkish Ambassador Engin Solakoglu told AFP news agency, adding he expects to be called back to Ankara for an indefinite period from December 22.
“Turkey considers this a hostile act by the French executive," said Solakoglu. “All cooperation with the French government, all joint projects, will be frozen.”
Davutoglu likewise told Turkish parliamentarians late on Wednesday that it is “out of the question to leave unanswered an attempt by any country leader, government or
parliament to dishonor our country and nation.” “If this proposal is legislated, France will pioneer the return of a Middle Ages mindset to Europe,” Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.
The French foreign ministry refused to directly comment on the threat. “Turkey is an important friend and ally,” spokesman Bernard Valero said, according to AFP.
Visiting Armenia, Sarkozy repeatedly reaffirmed France’s official recognition of the genocide enshrined in a 2001 law. He urged Ankara to stop denying a premeditated government effort to wipe out Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian population.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily rejected the call.
Ankara vehemently denies that some 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks in 1915-1918. Successive Turkish governments have said that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife, rather than a premeditated Ottoman government effort to annihilate a key Christian minority.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian was full of praise for Sarkozy when he visited France’s second largest city of Marseille last week. “We must simply be grateful to the wise president of this beautiful country,” he said in a speech there.
Sarkisian also urged the Turks “repent” for the genocide and expressed confidence that they will eventually recognize it.