Armenia thanks France for 'genocide' bill vote
YEREVAN - Agence France-Presse
French Minister of Relations with Parliament, Patrick Ollier (L) kisses Valerie Boyer, UMP right-wing ruling party deputy, on December 22, 2011 in Paris at the French National Assembly. AFP photo
Armenia's foreign minister on Thursday thanked Paris after French lawmakers voted to make it illegal to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turkey a century ago was genocide.
"I would like to once again express my gratitude to France's top leadership, to the National Assembly, and to the French people," Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian told AFP, adding that France had "once again proved its commitment to universal human values".
Armenia and its large diaspora has long campaigned for international recognition of the killings during World War I as genocide, despite strong denials from Turkey.
The issue has poisoned relations between the two neighbours whose mutual border remains closed, and still inspires intense feelings among Armenians.
"By adopting this law, (France) has yet again confirmed that a crime against humanity has no statute of limitation and that its denial must be unambiguously condemned," Nalbandian said.
The draft law, which will now be considered by the French Senate and parliamentary committees, makes it a crime to deny the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Turkish Ottoman forces amounted to a genocide.
There is a big Armenian diaspora community in France, where critics of the bill have accused President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party of seeking to win votes ahead of elections next year.