France passes Armenia genocide law
- France passes Armenia genocide law
Thursday 12 October 2006
France's lower house of parliament has passed a bill making it a crime
to deny the Armenian genocide, a step that has been strongly denounced
by the Turkish government.
Introduced by France's socialist opposition, the draft law would make
it a crime to deny that the 1915-1917 massacres of an estimated 1.2
million Christian Armenians by Ottoman Turks were an act of genocide.
The bill, passed by the lower house of Thursday, still needs to be
approved by the upper house of parliament before it becomes law.
Turkey's foreign ministry said relations between the two countries had
been dealt a severe blow by the proposed law.
"French-Turkish relations, which have developed over centuries ...
have been dealt a severe blow today as a result of the irresponsible
false claims of French politicians," the ministry said in a statement.
The French government had not backed the motion, although it gave its
supporters a free vote on the issue, and sought to distance itself
from the vote by stressing the importance of ties with Turkey.
In a statement issued by the French foreign ministry, it said the bill
was part of a "long legislative process" and described the legislation
as "unnecessary and untimely."
The EU, currently negotiating with Ankara on Turkey's entry, to the
body, also criticised the parliamentarian's decision.
"Should this law enter into force ... it would prohibit dialogue which
is necessary for reconciliation on the issue," said EU spokeswoman
Krisztina Nagy. The motion was carried by 106 votes to 19.
Protesters demonstrated outside the French embassy in Ankara
Turkey denies that over one million Christian Armenians were killed as
part of genocide during the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire
during the first world war, arguing that the Armenian deaths were a
part of general partisan fighting in which both sides suffered.
However, France's Armenian community, which is up to 500,000-strong
and one of the largest in Europe, had pushed hard for the bill and
found cross-party support within parliament.
"Imagine for a second that Germany today denied the Holocaust. It is
totally unacceptable," said French politician Patrick Devedjian, who
is of Armenian origin, told French RTL radio.
The legislation establishes a one-year prison term and 45,000 euro
($56,570) fine for anyone denying that a genocide occurred - the same
sanctions as those imposed for denying the Nazi genocide of Jews
during the second world war.
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