Turkey to recall ambassador if France bans genocide

Turkey to recall ambassador if France bans genocide

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Turkey to recall ambassador if France bans genocide

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) speaks with his French counterpart Alain Juppe (L) during a press conference in Ankara on November 18, 2011. AFP

Turkey will recall its ambassador and freeze ties with Paris if French lawmakers approve a bill banning the denial of the genocide regarding the 1915 killings next week, he told AFP on Thursday. 

"There will be irreparable consequences in all bilateral relations," ambassador Engin Solakoğlu said, adding he expected to be called back to Ankara for an indefinite period from December 22.

That is when France's National Assembly is expected to pass a law banning the denial of the 1915 events, which Armenians regard as a deliberate genocide while Turks argue the deaths were results of war, equally damaging both sides.

France, which has a large population of Armenian descent, has recognised the event as a genocide since 2001, but the new law, proposed by a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's majority party, has strained ties with Ankara.

"Turkey considers this a hostile act by the French executive," Solakoğlu told AFP. "All cooperation with the French government, all joint projects, will be frozen." A Turkish parliamentary delegation, led by its foreign affairs committee chief Volkan Bozkır, is due in Paris on Monday to lobby officials in a last minute bid to head of Thursday's vote.

If the law is passed as expected, anyone in France who publicy denies calling the events of 1915 as genocide could face a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000).

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during World War I by forces belonging to Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey refuses to call the killings a genocide and says 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians, and at least as many Turks, died in combat or of starvation when Armenians rose up and sided with invading Russian forces.

Sarkozy has called on Turkey to recognise the killings as genocide and in the past promised his country's large Armenian community the support a law criminalising its denial.

Sarkozy's government has had tense relations with Ankara on other issues. Paris opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union and has worked to block the process within Brussels institutions.