France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed on Friday Turkey’s furious reaction to the passage of a French bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide, saying that Ankara cannot teach his country any “lessons.”
“I respect the views of our Turkish friends -- it's a great country, a great civilization -- and they must respect ours,” the AFP news agency quoted Sarkozy as saying in Prague where he attended the funeral of late Czech President Vaclav Havel.
“France is not giving lessons to anyone but does not want them either,” he said.
“Under all circumstances, we must remain calm … France does not ask for permission, France has its convictions, human rights, and respect for memory,” added Sarkozy.
In remarks aired by French television, Sarkozy also cited a 2001 French law characterizing the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
“Ten years ago France adopted a law recognizing the Armenian genocide, the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians,” he said. “Now the question for the parliament was to know whether the recognition of this genocide should mean that those disputing it can be held accountable.
“This is what was decided by the National Assembly. You see, France has principles.”
Turkey has strongly condemned the bill approved by the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday and imposed political and military sanctions on Paris.
Earlier on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused France of committing genocide in its former colony Algeria and launched a personal attack on Sarkozy. “In Algeria from 1945, an estimated 15 percent of the population was massacred by the French. This is a genocide,” Erdogan said on live television, according to Reuters.
“If the French President Mr. Sarkozy doesn't know about this genocide he should go and ask his father, Paul Sarkozy. His father served in the French Legion in Algeria in the 1940s. I am sure he would have lots to tell his son about the French massacres in Algeria,” the Turkish premier said.
On Thursday Ankara recalled its ambassador in Paris for consultations and suspended mutual political visits as well as joint military projects with its NATO ally. Erdogan reportedly vowed to take more steps on Friday.
“We will take gradual measures as long as the current [French] attitude is maintained,” he said, without elaborating.
AFP reported that France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on Turkey not to “overreact” to a bill that he insisted was a parliamentary initiative, and not a project of Sarkozy's government.
“We have been accused of genocide! How could we not overreact?” the Turkish ambassador to France, Tahsin Burcuoglu, said before taking a flight home. “Turkey will never recognize this story of an Armenian genocide.”
Armenia, which has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, was quick to praise and thank French lawmakers for passing the bill. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said they demonstrated that human rights are a “supreme value” for France.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, condemned the Turkish reaction to the bill as “blackmail.” “I hope that we can expect a similar vote in the French Senate,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Vladimir Karapetian, a foreign policy spokesman for the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), also welcomed the French parliament vote. Karapetian said France thus “reaffirmed its commitment to justice and friendship with the Armenian people.”