French president to meet widow of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink

French president to meet widow of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
French president to meet widow of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink

Rakel Dink (pictured), wife of slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, will meet French President François Hollande in Istanbul next week. AA Photo

French President François Hollande will conduct a historic visit to Turkey next week during which he will sit down with Rakel Dink, the widow of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated seven years ago.

Armenian genocide allegations have been an issue that has long poisoned relations between Turkey and France. After years of lobbying, the sizable Armenian community in France succeeded in 2012 of convincing French lawmakers to endorse a law criminalizing the denial of their claims of genocide, which has contributed to the deterioration of bilateral relations in addition to Paris’ objection to Turkey’s bid for European Union membership.

The Constitutional Council of the French Republic, however, ruled in February 2012 that a law making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide was unconstitutional. Then last December, in a case involving Switzerland, the European Court of Justice ruled that the denial of genocide claims did not constitute a criminal offence.

Hollande is said to approach the genocide issue in view of these two rulings, but the two rulings have not relieved the pressure on him from the Armenian community, which has upped their efforts for 2015, the 100th anniversary of the World War 1 mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans. Memorial efforts in the past such as erecting statues in different French cities have also created problems between Paris and Ankara.

In an effort to put relations back on track in order to tap Turkey’s economic potential, Hollande will try to prevent the genocide issue from overshadowing his efforts to improve ties with Ankara. In this respect, he is expected to give messages of reconciliation as the Turkish government is also keen on mending fences with Armenia, with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Hollande’s meeting with the widow of Hrant Dink, a figure that worked for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, will take place within that setting. Rakel Dink is currently the director of the Hrant Dink Foundation.

Hollande will become the first French president to conduct a state visit to Turkey in 22 years; following his official talks in Ankara, he will hold several meetings in Istanbul.

He is expected to deliver a speech at Galatasaray University, and bestow a French state award on Candan Erçetin, a famous singer and deputy chair of the Galatasaray sports club.