Turkey to freeze Paris ties if ‘genocide’ bill passes
PARIS / ANKARA
The French Parliament is expected to vote on a ‘genocide’ bill next week. REUTERS photoTurkey will recall its ambassador and freeze ties with Paris if French lawmakers approve a bill punishing the denial of the “Armenian genocide” next week, the Turkish ambassador’s spokesperson, Engin Solakoğlu, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
“There will be irreparable consequences in all bilateral relations,” Solakoğlu said, adding that the ambassador expected to be recalled to Ankara for an indefinite period from Dec. 22 if the bill is passed.
France’s National Assembly is discussing whether to pass a law banning the denial of the 1915 incidents as genocide. “Turkey considers this a hostile act by the French executive,” Solakoğlu said. “All cooperation with the French government, all joint projects, will be frozen.” He said Ankara had already instructed the Turkish Embassy to France to freeze relations and leave the country if the bill goes through, adding that relations between the two states would be at their lowest level if this occurred.
He said he did not expect the economic relations to freeze, however, while France said yesterday that Turkey was an important ally and partner for France. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters yesterday that France attached importance to consultations with Ankara regarding regional and international matters, Anatolia news agency reported.
Meanwhile, Valero did not comment on Turkey’s statements that it would recall the ambassador in Paris, Tahsin Burcuoğlu, if the bill was adopted by the French parliament. Solakoğlu said Turkey knew the French Foreign Ministry was against this bill and that it would hurt relations, but added that the French president directed foreign relations and headed the executive organ.
Speaking via Twitter, Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Ömer Çelik said, “Instead of going for a wider vision, France is being pushed toward rigid nationalism because of [French president Nicolas] Sarkozy’s line.”
As Sarkozy falls behind in opinion polls, “he creates crises to jeopardize the relationship between Turkey and France. The source of inspiration for the future of the Arab Spring is undoubtedly Turkey, not France,” Çelik said.
Leading Turkish business organizations have joined Parliament’s efforts to stop the passage of a French bill that would penalize anyone who refuses to term the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
The Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) and the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) will dispatch delegations to Paris on Dec. 19 as part of efforts to stop the adoption of the bill. The private sector’s delegation will be in Paris on the same day with a parliamentary delegation that will urge French lawmakers to vote against the bill on Dec. 22.
“We, as TOBB and TUSİAD, are warning French [politicians] at the highest level through France’s organizations in the business world, with whom we have constructive relations,” a joint statement said yesterday.
TOBB and TUSİAD expressed concern that such an attitude could harm the Turkish-French business environment and added that they were in contact with French counterparts to follow the matter.
The French parliament recognized Armenian genocide claims in 2000, but the legislature is now seeking to adopt a law banning any denial of the claims. Deniers would be assessed a fine of 45,000 euros if the law is adopted.
The bill also calls for a prison term for those who reject the genocide claims.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned France that the bill represented a “medieval mindset” banning alternative thought. “If this bill is passed, France will lead the return of medieval mentality to Europe,” Davutoğlu said Dec. 14 during a budget debate in Parliament.
Davutoğlu said the bill targeted the clean history and record of Turks.
Turkey has told France that it will take retaliatory measures if the law is adopted; withdrawing the Turkish ambassador based in Paris for consultations and suspending political dialogue are among the possible measures Ankara is considering taking, according to reports.
Turkey and France have been enjoying better dialogue in recent months, especially on regional issues despite ongoing disagreements over Turkey’s accession to the European Union.