Recep Tayyip Erdogan er voldsomt provosert av et fransk lovforslag som vil gjøre det straffbart å benekte folkemordet på armenerne i 1914-15.
Frankrike har tilsvarende lovforbud om Holocaust. Nå ønsker et samlet politisk sentrum å innføre samme lov om tyrkernes folkemord på armenerne. Problemet er bare at tyrkerne aldri har innrømmet folkemord, og Ankara truer med sanksjoner.
Diplomatic relations between France and Turkey were on a knife-edge after Ankara warned of reprisals if the French parliament approves a law making it illegal to deny that the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was genocide.
The draft law put forward by a member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing party would make denying any genocide a criminal offence, punishable by a one-year jail sentence and a fine of €45,000 (£37,400). All French parties back the bill, which will be debated on parliament on Thursday and is likely to be approved.
The project has sparked a slanging match with Turkey threatening to withdraw its ambassador from Paris and expel the French ambassador to Ankara. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned President Sarkozy of serious political, economic and cultural consequences. He said France should look at its own «dirty and bloody history» in Algeria and Rwanda.
Turkish business leaders and parliamentarians visited Paris to pile on the pressure over trade, particularly energy contracts and Turkish Airlines’ purchase of the Airbus. France is Turkey’s fifth biggest export market and the sixth biggest source of its imports.
French officials bristled at what they saw as Turkish intimidation, but a rift emerged between Sarkozy, who refused to budge, and his foreign minister, Alain Juppé, who sought to smooth relations with Turkey – vital to France in handling Syria and Iran.
The row is only the latest difficulty between the two countries, which often come before a French election. Sarkozy, appealing to a right-wing electorate, is a longtime critic of Turkey’s bid to join the EU. He has done little to diffuse the row and Le Monde reported that he refused a call from the Turkish president Abdullah Gül this week. On a visit to Armenia in October, Sarkozy said Turkey should «revisit its history» very quickly, or France would bring in new laws over genocide denial. In turn, Turkey accused him of shamelessly chasing the Armenian vote four months before the presidential election – there are thought to be 500,000 Armenians in France. The French left is just as keen to push through the bill.
French government spokeswoman Valérie Pécresse said the bill was «not an attack on Turkey», and Juppé stressed the bill was not a government initiative. But Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, told Le Monde it was «an attack on our national dignity» that would damage bridge-building between Turkey and Armenia.
Turkey warns of reprisals if France passes genocide denial bill
Erdogan fury as French parliament due to vote on making it illegal to deny 1915 Armenian massacre was genocide