01/24/2012, 00.00
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Turkey threatens retaliation against France over Armenian genocide law

The French Senate yesterday approved the criminalization of public denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915, on the same basis of the law relating to the Holocaust. Ankara considers the vote "irresponsible", and speaks of "total failure" of relations between the two countries.
Ankara (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The French Senate yesterday approved a law according to which the public denial of the Armenian genocide in Turkey from 1915 onwards is considered a criminal act. It is already illegal in France to deny the Holocaust, a crime punishable by one year in prison and a fine of 45 thousand Euros. The same punishment will be adopted for those who deny the Armenian genocide. The bill - passed by 127 votes in favor and 86 against - will be sent to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will sign it into law. Armenia's government hailed the vote, saying France "reaffirmed its pivotal role as a genuine defender of universal human values." But Turkey, one of France's NATO allies, called it "an entirely unfortunate step for French politics.".

Ankara did not limit itself to these statements. The Turkish foreign ministry called the decision "irresponsible" and quickly threatened retaliatory measures. The problem is that the Turkish government has always followed an active policy of denial, both within the country where talking about the Armenian genocide is punishable by law, and abroad, with threats and blackmail towards those states that uphold the Armenians were the victims of genocide. One of the victims of this climate was the journalist Hrant Dink, who in the Agos newspaper affirmed the reality of the genocide, a view generally accepted by historians of the era, including some Turks. According to the figures of a document in the possession of the man chiefly responsible for the genocide, Talaat, the victims were over one million.

The Turkish ambassador in Paris, Tahsin Burcuoglu, said that the vote may cause a "total breakdown" in relations. President Sarkozy has sent a letter to the Turkish prime minister declaring that the law is not directed against his country, but only to respond to the suffering experienced by the Armenians. The Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will speak in Parliament in the coming hours, and is expected to indicate retaliation measures against France. The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, was not in favor of the bill, judging it "inappropriate".

The Armenian community of Istanbul - in particular, some sources close to the Agos newspaper, which was headed until 2007 by Hrant Dink, assassinated by Turkish ultra-nationalists - considers the French bill a disaster for freedom of thought and stated that "what interests us is the human dimension of genocide. " Turkish liberals and left-wing circles dismiss the measure as a "folly" of Sarkozy, who is seeking consensus among Armenian voters ahead of the upcoming presidential election. They also stress that the Turkish government's attempt to hit France on the grounds of "freedom of thought," is inappropriate, considering Turkey’s the sad situation in this matter. ... Turkey, unfortunately does not yet have the maturity and courage, both individual and collective, to face its past. "

According to analysts, the bill will also be endorsed by the European Court of Human Rights, because it is not contrary to European law. And thus it will have negative consequences on the accession process of Turkey's EU membership, especially if there is a boycott of French products.

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