In 1915, Ottoman Turks killed millions of Armenians. France passed a bill today making it a crime to deny that the mass killings was genocide, something that the people of Turkey say opens “very grave and irreparable wounds.” Turkey has halted military co-operation with France and has suspended all political visits.
The Telegraph reports that Turkey, a NATO member, has worked closely with France to tackle several issues in the Middle East. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, urged France not to pass the bill, saying that it was an insult to Turkish people. The bill received cross-party support in France’s National Assembly and now Turkey is starting to cut ties with France. Erdogan said:
“This proposed law targets and is hostile to the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish nation and the Turkish community living in France… I want to state clearly that such steps will have grave consequences for future relations between Turkey and France in political, economic, cultural and all areas… As of now, we are cancelling bilateral level political, economic and military activities. We are suspending all kinds of political consultations with France” and “bilateral military co-operation, joint manoeuvres are cancelled as of now.”
Turkey doesn’t deny the mass killings in 1915 but also doesn’t classify the acts of Ottoman Turks as genocide. According to the Telegraph, several historians have stated that the Ottoman government pursued a deliberate policy of genocide when it killed up to 1.5 million Christian Armenians during the first World War, but many Turks take the classification “genocide” as an insult to their nation.
The majority of French lawmakers passed the bill saying that it reinforces a “historical fact,” but a few legislators feel that the bill is an unnecessary insult.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, said:
“We have to remember international rules and with regard to Turkey it’s a member of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and is linked to the European Union by a customs union and these two commitments mean a non-discriminatory policy towards all companies within the European Union.”
According to Reuters, Turkey has ruled out an embargo but has hinted at a boycott of French goods. The bill could also effect France and Turkey’s energy relationship.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said:
“France is about to commit a political sin. Newly arising French-Turkish ties in the energy sector may not be in a position to overcome this.”
Erdogan believe that not only is the bill insulting, but that it’s also an obvious effort from French conservatives to win votes from the 500,000 ethnic Armenians in France during next year’s election.