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Turkey Imposes Sanctions for French Genocide Bill

  • Dorian Jones

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a signing ceremony with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [not pictured], in Ankara, Turkey, December 22, 2011.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a signing ceremony with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [not pictured], in Ankara, Turkey, December 22, 2011.

Turkey has announced several sanctions against France, following the French parliament's passing of a bill that will make it a criminal offense to deny Ottoman Turkey committed genocide against Armenians in the past century.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily condemned the French parliament for passing the bill criminalizing denials of the Ottoman Armenian genocide.

"France will not speak of Voltaire and Montesquieu anymore I guess," Erdogan quipped. "They have stepped over their ideals of equality, in this voting there is racism, discrimination, and doing politics over discrimination against foreigners."

Along with announcing the recall of Turkey's ambassador from Paris, Erdogan listed several trade, military and political sanctions intended to punish France.

The measures were largely symbolic, including the canceling of seminars, and banning the French navy from using Turkey's territorial waters. The French air force also will have to ask permission for each flight in Turkish air space.

The leaders of Turkey's two main opposition parties also condemned the decision.

Turkish-Armenian Etyen Mahcupyan, a political columnist for the Zaman newspaper, said the French parliament's vote threatens the interests of many Armenians.

"It will not serve any purpose to bettering the relations between Turkey and Armenia, and conditions of the Armenians in Turkey. Because it will bring a nationalist backlash," said Mahcupyan.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia currently are frozen.

The genocide denial bill punishes anyone who denies a genocide recognized by the French state with up to a year in jail and a $58,000 fine. That includes the mass killing of Armenians by Turkey's then-Ottoman rulers during World War I.

Ankara denies the genocide charge, saying the deaths occurred in a civil war, in which many Turkish Muslims also died. Ankara calls for the controversy to be resolved by historians rather than politicians.

The controversial bill still needs to be ratified by the French Senate and President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ankara is continuing to lobby against the measure, and Erdogan warns if the effort fails he is ready to take further measures against France.

He says the announced measures are the first step, and if the French law is ratified, his government will implement more sanctions immediately. He said he hopes common sense will prevail and these events will not take the Turkish-French relationships to a point of no return.

Despite such tough language, observers say French politicians are seeking a share of 500,000 ethnic-Armenian votes for next year's presidential elections, and warnings from Turkey may be ignored.

Supporters of the bill say they are pushing for it to become French law by February.

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