France has urged Turkey not to overreact to the French Senate’s approval of a bill making it illegal to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks after World War I was genocide.
Ankara has warned of severe diplomatic consequences, while the matter is a controversial issue in France too. The French foreign minister did not support the move and is urging Turkey not to take action.
Speaking on French television he said: “I think this initiative is inappropriate. Well, anyway, parliament has decided that. What I want to do today is to call on our Turkish friends to stay cool. After this wave reaction, a little excessive, it must be said, I’m sure we’ll find again a constructive relationship, I put out my hand and I hope it will be shaken one day”.
The outcome of the vote has been welcomed by Armenia. It has also delighted France’s more than half-million-strong Armenian community. The bill now goes to President Nicolas Sarkozy, a strong supporter of the proposal, for ratification. Many Turks are among those who suspect the law is part of Sarkozy’s political agenda; he faces a presidential election this year and France’s Armenian community represents a not-insignificant electoral minority.
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of parliament in Ankara that the law was “discriminatory” and “racist.”
The French deputy who proposed the bill and member of Sarkozy’s UMP party Valérie Boyer, said it was a tremendous step: “It’s a very important moment, a great moment for human rights and human dignity. I’m very glad that parliament has adopted the law today, and I hope that this law move forward peacefully.”