Turkey in full-court press against France
This file photo shows French President Sarkozy (L) and his Armenian counterpart Sarkisian laying flowers at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. AP photoTurkish lawmakers and business leaders are preparing to run a full-court diplomatic press against France to prevent the adoption of a controversial law penalizing the denial of Armenian genocide claims.
A delegation led by Volkan Bozkır, head of Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, will launch a three-day campaign in Paris today where he will express the Turkish legislature’s unease to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and other senior French lawmakers and officials.
A vote on the bill is expected to take place Dec. 22.
Bozkır’s meeting will also include Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the Socialist Group at the French Parliament, and Michel Diefenbacher, head of the Turkish-French Friendship Group. Bozkır will also meet French Parliament Speaker Bernard Accoyer and French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s foreign policy adviser, Jean-David Levitte, on Dec. 20.
Speaking in Konya at a meeting of the Reform Monitoring Group, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu slammed the bill and argued the European Union should start monitoring the “freedom of expression in France.”
The minister appealed to French intellectuals and civic society to defend freedom of speech in the country, stressing “European values are under threat in France.”
France “will make another historical mistake” if it approves the bill, CHP deputy leader Faruk Loğoğlu said in New York on the sidelines of a meeting.
This week’s diplomatic campaign comes after the Turkish government warned France of serious repercussions should the law, which would entail a year-long jail sentence and a 45,000-euro fine for individuals who deny the genocide claims, be passed. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek sent letters late last week urging their counterparts to recognize that “there will be grave consequences if the bill is adopted.”
Erdoğan intensified his message against the French initiative on Dec. 17 saying: “There were reports France was responsible for the deaths of 45,000 people in Algeria in 1945 and for the massacre of up to 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994. No historian, no politician can see genocide in our history. Those who want to see genocide should turn around and look at their own dirty and bloody history. The French National Assembly should shed light on Algeria; it should shed light on Rwanda.”
Turkey has already announced it will withdraw its ambassador in Paris if the bill is adopted and said the move would seriously damage bilateral ties. Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış, meanwhile, drew attention to Dec. 22, the day French Parliament is set to vote on the bill, saying it was the anniversary of the assassination of a Turkish diplomat at the hands of the outlawed Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) in 1979.
Bağış called on France to apologize to Turkey for failing to protect the Turkish diplomat instead of initiating such “unwise” moves in parliament.
France is among the countries that have recognized the mass killings of Armenians during the World War I at the hands of Ottoman Empire as “genocide.”
Business leaders in action
As well as lawmakers and diplomats, Turkey’s business leaders will unite against the bill in Paris this week. Representatives of the influential Union of Chambers of Commodity Exchange of Turkey (TOBB) and the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) will hold meetings with their counterparts in Paris today and ask them to stand against the bill to prevent any damage to economic ties. Turkish business leaders will visit top French business associations like the Medef and ICC.
“There are 960 French companies who have investments in Turkey. We have mobilized them against the bill with concerns the motion will damage their investments,” TOBB Chairman Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said over the weekend.
A TOBB board member also warned the adoption of the bill would result in an entire boycott of French products in Turkey. “If this law is adopted, it will have consequences not only in political and economic fields, but also in scientific, social, cultural and humanitarian dimensions,” Mustafa Yardımcı said in a written statement yesterday.