Despite protests from France’s Turkish community, the lower house of parliament in Paris has backed a bill making the denial of genocide a crime.
For France, this covers the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915. But that puts it at odds with Ankara which rejects the genocide description.
“We want to leave history to historians and politics to politicians,” said one Franco-Turkish demonstrator outside the National Assembly. “We don’t want politicians to deal with history.”
France stressed the bill was not a government initiative. But it has raised tension with Turkey whose Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned of political and economic consequences if it is passed. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France in protest.
Turkey’s former ambassador to Italy, Inal Batu, told euronews’ Istanbul correspondent Bora Bayraktar:
“Those who will write the history of Turkish-French relations will underline how Sarkozy heavily damaged the relations. What should be done is clear: Turkey must find ways to sideline French companies from big contracts. And I’m sure it will.”
Many people in Istanbul are not happy either.
“It is ridiculous to prevent people from speaking their minds in a place where democracy exists,” said Turkish citizen Isa Capanoglu. “But the Europeans are really good at taking advantage of this. They mention the Armenian genocide much more than the genocide against the Jews in Germany. I believe it is a double standard.”
Another resident said: “I was planning to change my car. I used to be a sales rep for Renault but after the French parliament’s decision I will not buy a French car.”
If the bill is now passed in the upper house, offenders could face a one year jail term and a 45,000 euro fine.
The Turkish press has accused Nicolas Sarkozy of trying to win the votes of France’s half a million ethnic Armenians in next year’s presidential poll.