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Turkey in Genocide Dispute with NATO Allies

Turkey has pulled out of a NATO military exercise in Canada and is considering sanctions against France for supporting Armenians who want the mass slaughter of their kin by Ottoman-Turk forces during and after World War I recognized as genocide.

A senior Turkish foreign ministry official confirmed Turkey would not be participating in an air force training exercise in Canada. Turkey's withdrawal is the latest in a series of moves aimed at conveying Ankara's anger over Canadian policy.

Turkey recalled its ambassador last week after Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, characterized the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Mr. Harper's comments came as the French parliament prepares to debate a bill that would criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide and the Jewish Holocaust following World War II.

Critics of the bill, which was introduced by the Socialist bloc, say it is calculated to win votes from France's Armenian community in elections scheduled for next year. The French move has broader ramifications as France is one of the most powerful members of the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join.

Turkey has always denied that a genocide took place, but there are mounting calls from within the European Union to change its policy of denial as a condition for membership. Many Turks see such pressure as further evidence that the European Union does not want a poor Muslim country within its ranks.

But despite the Ankara government's tough rhetoric, including veiled threats of economic sanctions against France, public debate on the fate of the Ottoman Armenians is growing in Turkey. Some prominent Turkish academics have gone as far as to say that the mass killings did amount to genocide.

But even these intellectuals say they are opposed to France's efforts to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide. They argue that such laws can only help to vindicate similar laws in Turkey that penalize Turks who dare to utter the word genocide in discussions of the fate of the Armenians after World War I.