French-Turk friction clouds Syria meeting

French-Turk friction clouds Syria meeting

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
French-Turk friction clouds Syria meeting

FM Davutoglu and his French counterpart Juppe seen in this file photo. AA Photo

As Turkey prepares to host the second gathering of the “Friends of Syria” group to discuss the Syrian crisis in Istanbul in March, Ankara is still deciding whether to invite French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. Political ties between the two countries have been strained over a “genocidebill.

“We haven’t sent any invitation to any country yet. We will still consider inviting Juppe,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. Turkey had not ruled out the participation of France, since it would not be a bilateral meeting, but rather a multi-party gathering, the diplomat said, implying a higher likelihood he would be invited.

Turkey will host the second “Friends of Syria” conference in late March, following the group’s first meeting in Tunis on Feb. 24.

If Turkey decides to invite France to the gathering, the invitation would be for Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, not French President Nicholas Sarkozy, as the conference would be at the ministerial level, the diplomat said.

Juppe is known to be against the law the French parliament passed in December 2011 which made denying the Ottoman empire committed genocide against its Armenian population in the World War I era a criminal offense.

The French Constitutional Council canceled the legislation, calling it “unconstitutional,” but President Sarkozy ordered his government to draft a new bill, which can only be done in the next term of French Parliament after the elections in June.

The Friends of Syria group’s third meeting was planned to convene in France later, probably with the participation of heads of state, if the group decided to do so at the Istanbul meeting, the diplomat said.

The diplomat said Turkey had not decided whether to participate in the gathering if invited by the French government because of Sarkozy’s attitude of insisting on the law despite the French Constitutional Council’s rejection of the legislation.

While the Constitutional Council was obvious, it was not certain what would happen in the end about the denial law, the diplomat said.