Sixty signatures wanted before Sarkozy’s approval

Sixty signatures wanted before Sarkozy’s approval

As a matter of fact, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had to be in Brussels Jan. 23 to attend a European Union ministers meeting in which the oil ban on Iran was set to be discussed. That would be an occasion for him to meet with his French counterpart Alain Juppe before the crucial vote at the Senate over the bill that penalizes the denial of the Armenian genocide

He preferred to stay in Ankara and to observe the voting at a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some other high-ranking government officials. The idea was to be ready to swiftly announce Turkey’s counter-actions against France and to display the Turkish government will not swallow the oddity introduced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu were later joined by Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım as well as deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ömer Çelik. 

Contrary to expectations, Erdoğan did not unveil sanctions against France and seemed to distinguish Sarkozy as solely responsible for the move. Furthermore, his statements at his party’s parliamentary group were reflecting a common sense with expectation that the Constitutional Court will annul the bill if 60 senators or lawmakers would be able to apply to the high court. 

“We did not want to curl senators’ toes. That’s why we have decided to postpone declaring our action plan,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said yesterday. Immediately after the vote, Turkey’s ambassador to Paris Tahsin Burcuoğlu and other Turkish envoys based in Paris (permanent representatives for UNESCO and OECD) kept a tight rein on senators who voted against the bill. The encouraging development was the fact that 86 senators opposed the bill, 26 more than needed to take the bill to the high court.

“In addition,” a senior government official said, “the debate at the Senate was very intensive and we have seen that this very absurd law drew reactions from intellectuals, media and a number of senators. We have to use this atmosphere and not ruin it by announcing the action plan.” 

The government, toning down its criticisms, is now awaiting a response from Paris if France is also keen in not worsening bilateral ties with Turkey. The worst scenario will be realized if Sarkozy immediately approves the law before the opponents could garner 60 votes. Apart from further tarnishing his “persona non grata” image in Turkey, with this move Sarkozy would no doubt bring bilateral ties to an irreversible point. That will obviously push Turkey to announce its sanctions against France in retaliation.

“What can we do next? Why not gather 100,000 Turks in downtown Paris with placards denying the Armenian genocide?” asked the senior official. “We wonder how the French judiciary will deal with the backlog of cases.”