Turkey urged France’s Senate on Friday to reject a bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide after French President Nicolas Sarkozy signaled his continuing support for the measure welcomed by Armenia.
The upper house of the French parliament is scheduled to debate and vote on the bill on Monday. The draft legislation is expected to be passed despite being rejected by a Senate committee on Wednesday. According to French media, most senators opposed to it will likely not show up for the vote.
In a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sarkozy reportedly said that the bill approved by the French National Assembly on December 22 is “in no way aimed at any state or people in particular.” He said it is intended to “protect the memories of members of our society who have been carrying along with them for a very long time the feeling of denial of what their ancestors went through and to heal their wounds inflicted a hundred years ago.”
“I hope we can make reason prevail and maintain our dialogue, as befits allied and friendly countries,” Sarkozy wrote.
“No opinion, no letter will change our perspective regarding the matter,” the “Today’s Zaman” daily quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as telling journalists in Ankara.
“We expect Sarkozy, his party, and the French Senate to respect European values before anything else. Those who exploit history will themselves suffer from this exploitation. We invite each French senator to stop for a while and think beyond all political interests,” Davutoglu said, according to the AFP news agency.
“If the bill passes, it will remain as a black stain in France's intellectual history. And we will always remind them of this black stain,” he warned.
Turkey already recalled its ambassador from Paris, banned French military aircraft and warships from landing and docking in Turkey and froze political and economic meetings after the National Assembly vote. Its National Security Council warned on December 27 that Ankara will take further action against Paris if the French Senate passes “this unfair measure.”
Patrick Ollier, a French government minister in charge of relations with the parliament, indicated afterwards that the French government is unfazed by the possibility of more Turkish sanctions.
Under the bill drafted by a lawmaker from Sarkozy’s UMP party, people who deny genocides would face a one-year jail term and a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($58,000). France recognized the 1915 killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide with a special law adopted in 2011.
Armenia has hailed the latest genocide bill. In a December 23 letter to Sarkozy, President Sarkisian said that by criminalizing genocide denial France is demonstrating its commitment to “universal human values.”