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Ankara Slams Sarkozy Over Armenia Genocide Comments

  • Peter Cobus

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Feb. 2011 (file photo).

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Feb. 2011 (file photo).

The Turkish government has criticized French President Nicolas Sarkozy for saying Ankara should recognize the deaths of Armenians under Turkish rule nearly 100 years ago as genocide.

Turkish European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis was quoted by state media Friday as saying Sarkozy's comments were inappropriate. He said it is "not the duty of politicians to deal with history."

The French president, who has been on a visit to Armenia, said all great countries - including Turkey - do the honorable thing by revisiting their history. He also said the French parliament could consider making genocide denial a crime in France, just like denying the Nazi Holocaust of Jews.

In a reference to France, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday that any state with a colonial history did not have the right to "give a lesson to Turkey on confronting its history." Davutoglu said it would be beneficial if France confronts its own past - particularly with African nations.

Armenia says as many as 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by Ottoman Turks before and during World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies this. It calls the death toll exaggerated and says the dead were victims of civil war and unrest. Turkey says any country recognizing an Armenian genocide faces a downgrade in relations.

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