President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday thanked his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy for helping to enact what he described as a historic law that criminalizes the denial of the Armenian genocide.
“France has reaffirmed its greatness and power, its devotion to the universal human values,” Sarkisian said in a letter to Sarkozy publicized by his press office. “This day is exceptional for all those who are struggling for the protection of human rights, for the condemnation and prevention of the crimes against humanity.”
“This is a historic day for the Armenians all over the world – in Armenia, in France, everywhere,” he said.
Sarkisian hailed Sarkozy’s apparently decisive role in the bill’s passage by the French Senate late on Monday. “I thank you for your personal commitment, for your invaluable input which made possible the adoption of the law criminalizing the denial of genocides,” he said.
The Armenian leader sent a similar letter to Sarkozy after the bill was approved by France’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, on December 22.
Sarkozy signaled support for the controversial measure championed by leaders of France’s sizable Armenian community when he paid an official visit to Yerevan in October. He urged Turkey to stop denying that the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide and made a point of laying flowers at a genocide memorial in Yerevan.
Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) expressed confidence on Monday that the French law will encourage more countries to recognize the mass killings and deportations as genocide.
“The adoption of this bill by the French Senate also demonstrated that Armenia’s authorities led by President Sarkisian have pursued a correct, flexible and, most importantly, pro-Armenian foreign policy,” HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov said at a news conference.
Giro Manoyan, the foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), described the French parliament votes as a “victory for all Armenians.” Manoyan, whose party has an influential branch in France, agreed that the forthcoming French presidential election was instrumental in the bill’s passage.
But he said other, moral factors were also at play. “It was a matter of principle and justice and we should thank France for that as well,” Manoyan told journalists.
Meanwhile, more than 150 young Armenians rallied outside the French Embassy in Yerevan to also express their gratitude to France. The demonstrators, most of them supporters of Dashnaktsutyun’s and the HHK’s youth wings, chanted “Long live France!” and “Merci!” Some of them also held up pictures of Sarkozy and French deputy Valerie Boyer, the main sponsor of the bill.
“We have gathered here to express our gratitude to France’s government for its pro-Armenian efforts,” one young woman, a university student, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We think the Senate vote will help to ensure that all countries of the world follow France’s example and recognize the Armenian genocide,” she said.