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Turkey Accuses France of Genocide

  • Peter Cobus

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara, Oct. 11, 2011 (file photo).

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara, Oct. 11, 2011 (file photo).

Turkey has responded angrily to a French parliament vote making it a crime to publicly deny as genocide the mass killings of Armenians during the Ottoman era in Turkey nearly a century ago.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused France of committing genocide in Algeria more than 60 years ago. He said French colonialists massacred 15 percent of Algeria's population starting in 1945.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul said his French counterpart, President Nicolas Sarkozy, is "prejudiced" against Turkey.

France has expressed regret about Turkey's reaction to the bill, which France's lower house of parliament passed on Thursday.

The measure says anyone denying the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman forces were genocide faces a nearly $60,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

The legislation now goes to the French Senate for consideration.

France formally recognized the Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, but had imposed no penalty for anyone refuting that.

Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War One by troops of Turkey's Ottoman Empire, which historians say was one of the 20th century's worst massacres. Turkey has acknowledged the loss of Armenian lives, but says the death toll is exaggerated and does not amount to genocide. It says the deaths were the result of civil war.

Erdogan said Friday the bill's passage is a clear example of how racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France and is banning the French navy from using Turkish territorial waters. It also has imposed restrictions on the use of Turkish air space by French military aircraft.

Erdogan accuses Sarkozy of pandering to the hundreds of thousands of French citizens of Armenian descent heading into his reelection bid next year.

Relations between France and Turkey, both members of NATO, have been frozen over French opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

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