|"Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, has hit out at French plans to prosecute people who deny the mass killings of Armenians was genocide." (Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images)|
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, December 19, 2011
"Turkey has threatened to denounce France's colonial past at international meetings in retaliation for French plans to prosecute people who deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks was genocide. Turkey rejects the term genocide to describe the killings of Armenians more than 90 years ago. Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed and experts say it was the first genocide of the 20th century. France considers the killings a genocide. The lower house of the French parliament is to debate a proposal that would punish anyone denying that the slaughter was genocide with one year in prison and a €45,000 (£37,700) fine. The issue threatens to further harm Turkish-French relations already tense over French president Nicolas Sarkozy's opposition to Turkey's bid to join the EU. Turkey has threatened to withdraw its ambassador to France if the bill is passed, while prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the country should investigate alleged French abuses in Algeria and Rwanda instead. France had troops in Rwanda in 1994, and Rwandan president Paul Kagame has accused the country of doing little to stop the country's genocide. Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Sunday that Ankara would bring up the issue of 'French colonialism' and 'start talking about truths everywhere in the world'. His words were carried by the state-run Anadolu agency. Meanwhile, France's foreign ministry said on Monday that foreign minister Alain Juppe would meet a delegation from Turkey's parliament on Tuesday to discuss the draft law. Volkan Bozkir, head of the foreign affairs committee, and opposition figure Osman Koruturk are leading the delegation that is lobbying French legislators against the bill. Turks have called for a boycott of French goods and companies in retaliation for the draft law. Turkish government officials say trade rules and a customs union agreement between Turkey and the EU forbid an official boycott of France -- an important economic partner. Turkey's economy minister said, however, that a joint Turkish-French economic co-operation meeting scheduled for January could be cancelled if the bill is passed. [...]"