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France Approves Armenian Genocide Bill

  • Peter Cobus

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian in Yerevan, Armenia, October 7, 2011.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian in Yerevan, Armenia, October 7, 2011.

France's lower house of parliament has easily approved a controversial draft bill making it a crime to publicly deny as genocide the killing of Armenians by troops of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago.

Turkey had warned of "grave consequences" to economic and political relations between the two countries if the law passes. Turkey says it will recall its Paris ambassador for consultations and ask the French ambassador to leave Ankara. Turkish officials say the government may also exclude French companies from public contracts.

Armenia says up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks before and during World War One. Turkey denies the killings constitute genocide. It says the death toll was exaggerated and the dead were victims of civil war and unrest.

The bill punishes anyone who publicly denies the genocide with up to a year in jail and a $58,500 fine. It will next be considered by the upper house, or Senate.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul issued a strong statement to France, saying it was not possible for Turkey to accept a draft law that denies the freedom to reject unjust and groundless accusations targeting Turkey. He also insinuated that the timing of the draft law was French President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt at gaining support from France's 400,000 Armenians in his bid for reelection in 2012.

Bilateral relations between France and Turkey are already strained because President Sarkozy opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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