The upper house of the French parliament will reportedly vote this month on a bill to criminalize the denial of the Armenian genocide, despite Turkey’s threats to impose further sanctions on France.
“The [French] government has decided to put this draft law on the agenda of the Senate in the last eight days of January,” Patrick Ollier, a government minister in charge of relations with the parliament, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
“There is consensus on this text,” Ollier said, arguing that the opposition Socialist majority in the Senate itself has demanded such a debate.
The Senate majority leader, Francois Rebsamen, said late last month that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government should formally submit the draft law to French senators “as soon as possible.” “Even if this text carries electoral suspicions, nothing would be worse today than to bury it,” he said in a statement.
The bill was drafted by lawmakers from Sarkozy’s UMP party and approved by the French lower house, the National Assembly, on December 22. If it passes the Senate, as expected, people who deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I constituted genocide will face a one-year jail term and a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($58,000).
Ollier acknowledged the Sarkozy government’s tacit support for the measure that has long been championed by leaders of France’s influential Armenian community. He argued that France already enacted in 1991 a law that makes it a crime to deny the Jewish Holocaust.
“There is no reason to punish the denial of one genocide but not the other,” the minister said. “This is a simple coordination of punishment.”
France officially recognized the Armenian genocide with a special law adopted in 2011. Turkey reacted furiously to both the 2001 law and the latest genocide bill.
Immediately after the December 22 vote Ankara recalled its ambassador from Paris, banned French military aircraft and warships from landing and docking in Turkey and froze political and economic meetings. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan slammed the French bill as "politics based on racism, discrimination and xenophobia" and turned his anger on Sarkozy, accusing France of committing genocide in Algeria.
Turkey’s National Security Council warned on December 28 that Ankara will take further action against Paris if the French Senate passes “this unfair measure.”
Ollier indicated that the French government is unfazed by the possibility of more Turkish sanctions. “It seems to me that [the bill’s] adoption by the second assembly should not generate additional reactions from whatever source,” he told AFP.
Meanwhile, the Istanbul-based newspaper “Hurriyet Daily News” reported on Wednesday that the Turkish ambassador to France, Tahsin Burcuoglu, will be sent back to Paris in the coming days to “coordinate” Turkish efforts to prevent the genocide bill’s passage by the Senate.