Sarkozy warns over ‘common interests’

Sarkozy warns over ‘common interests’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Sarkozy warns over ‘common interests’

French President Sarkozy (R) points at commercial exchanges and investments in a letter to Turkish PM Erdoğan.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to protect “common interests” in trade and regional affairs, in a letter ahead of a French vote on a bill criminalizing the denial of Armenian “genocide” that has brought bilateral ties to the brink of crisis.

Standing by the bill, Sarkozy said it did not target any specific country and aimed to preserve the memories of France’s Armenian community and “help them heal the wounds that have been opened about 100 years ago,” according to the text of the Jan. 18 letter released by the French Embassy. He stressed that Turkey should protect “the common interests uniting our peoples” and pointed at commercial exchanges and investments, cooperation in the struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the “added value” of bilateral coordination in crisis-management in the Middle East and the two countries’ alliance within NATO.

The authors of the bill were well aware of the suffering of the Turkish people during the dissolution years of the Ottoman Empire and World War I, he said. “I hope that common sense will prevail, as it ought to be between friends and allies, and that we will maintain dialogue. France is all ready to do that,” he added. In response to Turkish accusations of French atrocities in the past, Sarkozy said France had already acknowledged its responsibility for slave trade and the handover of French Jews to Nazi concentration camps. He stressed he had personally denounced the “unspeakable suffering” the French colonial rule had caused in Algeria in a speech in Algeria in 2007.

Turkish FM downplays letter
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu played down the significance of the letter, which, he said, was a response to Erdoğan’s letter in December last year that urged Sarkozy to prevent the adoption of the bill. “Our position on the issue is clear. No argument or letter can change our position,” Davutoğlu said. “We expect Sarkozy, his party and the French Senate to respect European values before anything else. Those who exploit history will themselves suffer from this exploitation,” he said. “We invite each French senator to stop for a while and think beyond all political interests,” he added. “If the bill passes, it will remain as a black stain in France’s intellectual history. And we will always remind them of this black stain.” The French Senate will vote on the bill Jan. 23 after Parliament’s Lower House adopted it December last year.

Germany joins genocide debate


Erika Steinbach, a spokesperson for a human rights group in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative government’s Parliament, said Germany could approve a bill penalizing the denial of Armenian “genocide,” daily Milliyet reported Jan. 20. “According to government coalition members, no matter how long Turkey denies it, it is clear there was genocide [referring to the 1915 Armenian incidents]. Armenian genocide should be on our agenda constantly,” said Steinbach. Steinbach said the opposition party would probably reject such a bill.