Azerbaijan slams France vote on Armenia 'genocide'

Azerbaijan slams France vote on Armenia 'genocide'

BAKU - Agence France-Presse
Azerbaijan slams France vote on Armenia genocide

A protester holds a Turkish flags during a demonstration in front of the French consulate in Istanbul December 22, 2011. REUTERS photo

Turkey's ally Azerbaijan on Friday slammed the French parliament's approval of a law making it illegal to deny the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I was genocide.

"We condemn this decision," Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told a news conference.

"This decision by the French parliament will only create problems," he said.

A foreign ministry statement issued late Thursday also accused France of stifling free speech on the genocide issue.

"Azerbaijan expresses its astonishment and declares that this unacceptable step doesn't correspond with the principles of freedom of speech and expression which form the basis of democracy in Europe," the statement said.

Azerbaijan is a bitter enemy of Armenia as well as a close ally of Turkey, and like Ankara, Baku rejects the genocide allegations as false.

A parliamentary debate in Baku on Friday was dominated by outrage at the French vote.

"This move by France is a blow to stability and peace in Europe," governing party lawmaker Mubariz Gurbanli told parliament.

"This step is directed against democracy," said opposition lawmaker Iqbal Agezadeh.

Azerbaijani activists held a rare street protest on Wednesday against the law to make it a crime to deny the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Turkish Ottoman forces during World War I amounted to a genocide.

Turkic-speaking, mainly Muslim Azerbaijan fought a war with Armenia in the 1990s over the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh. No final peace deal has yet been signed amid simmering tensions and regular skirmishes on the frontline.