Turkey defies French vote, eyes court action
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Activists of an Armenian youth group gather yesterday at the French Embassy in Yerevan to express their gratitude to France’s Parliament for passing a bill that outlaws the denial of Armenian genocide allegations. AP photoTurkey has launched an all-out diplomatic push in Paris to convince 60 French senators to ask the Constitutional Council to scrap the legislation in a frantic bid to avert the “genocide” denial bill, while keeping the threat of sanctions low-key so as not to blow up the effort.
The fact that 86 senators voted against the bill, which was endorsed by the Senate on Jan. 23, encouraged Ankara to delay announcing its heavy sanctions against France. “We want to ease the hands of these senators. That’s why sanctions have not been announced,” sources said.
All Turkish diplomats in Paris, both those at the embassy and Turkish representatives at international organizations, were instructed to start lobbying senators immediately after the Senate approved the bill late in the evening of Jan. 23.
The application has to be submitted as early as possible and before French President Nicolas Sarkozy approves the law in a move to effectuate the punishments stipulated by the law. Sarkozy, who has 15 days to approve the law, “would prefer not to delay his approval so that he would block the annulment of the law,” sources said.
In Ankara, top state officials slammed the French Senate vote but remained tight-lipped on what could be the Turkish retaliation against Paris. “No doubt, the measures the government will decide on will be strictly implemented,” President Abdullah Gül told reporters yesterday. “I hope at least 60 senators who believe that the law is unlawful will take it to the Constitutional Council in line with the law commission report,” Gül said. “Otherwise, the Turkish-French relationship will enter a different track.”
At the stage of patience
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was still “at the stage of patience” and retained hope the bill could be blocked. The government has an “action plan” ready and sanctions against France will be announced stage-by-stage if the law ultimately takes effect, he added.
Erdoğan said the law was “entirely null and void for Turkey” and echoed the “footsteps of fascism” in Europe.
“The votes in the French Parliament and the proposal that has been adopted are an open demonstration of discrimination and racism and amount to a massacre of free thought,” he said.
Erdoğan said Sarkozy’s grandfather was a Jew born in Salonika, then part of the Ottoman Empire, where his ancestors had fled from persecution in Spain.
Anger against Sarkozy
“Regardless of how much enmity he has against Turkey, [Sarkozy] is someone whose roots are linked to the Ottoman Empire and whose history intersects with that of Turkey. No matter how racist the approach he adopts, he cannot get rid of his past and overshadow the Ottomans’ tolerance,” Erdoğan said.
“We will not give this petty racist mindset the honor of hassling Turkey. We will act with the common sense and dignity of a great country,” he added.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek warned that deterioration in Turkish-French relations had become “inevitable” as he slammed the adoption of the bill as “a worrying development with respect to political reason and freedom of thought in France.” Opposition leaders called for a tough reprisal and lent support to government plans to sanction France.
Opposition gives full support
Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said his Republican People’s Party (CHP) would give the government a “blank check” for sanctions but warned that the measures should be resolute and long-lasting, unlike previous spats between Turkey and countries that have recognized the Armenian “genocide” allegations.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli described the denial bill as “arrogance” and said it “must not be left unanswered.”
The French vote also received reactions from Azerbaijan and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). “Azerbaijan condemns once again the step taken by the French Senate and calls [on] France to stop turning historical events into political games,” said the Azeri Foreign Ministry statement.