Turkey and France trade accusations of genocidal history
Turkey and France tussle over genocide bill: Turkey, angered by a French bill forbidding denial of the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide, accused France of committing genocide during its occupation of Algeria.
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The French bill's passage "is a clear example of how racism, discrimination, and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe," Erdogan said. "French President Sarkozy's ambition is to win an election based on promoting animosity against Turks and Muslims."Skip to next paragraph
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France holds presidential elections in April.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the French vote was comparable with attempts by Mideast rulers to stifle free speech.
"Europe has philosophically and ideologically reverted to the Middle Ages," Mr. Davutoglu said at a conference of Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, the capital.
France formally recognized the Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, but had previously provided no penalty for anyone refuting that. The bill sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($59,000) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize" the killings, putting such action on par with denial of the Holocaust.
France is committed to human rights and respect for "historical memory," Mr. Sarkozy said in Prague, where he was attending the funeral of Vaclav Havel, the dissident who became president of the Czech Republic.
"France doesn't give lessons to anyone, but France also doesn't plan on taking them," Sarkozy said in a clip shown on France's LCI television. "I respect the convictions of our Turkish friends – it's a grand country, a grand civilization – and they must respect ours. To cede on one's convictions is always cowardice, and one always ends up by paying for cowardice."
Most historians contend the Ottoman killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians constituted the first genocide of the 20th century. But the issue is dicey for any government that wants a strong alliance with Turkey, a rising power. In Washington, President Barack Obama has stopped short of calling the killings genocide.
The Armenian National Committee of America said the French vote "reinforces the growing international consensus – and the mounting pressure on Turkey – for a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide."
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