France passes genocide law, faces Turkish reprisals

Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:31pm GMT

By John Irish and Emile Picy

PARIS (Reuters) - France approved on Monday a bill making it illegal to deny the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago was genocide, sparking angry retaliation from Turkey which threatened a "total rupture" of diplomatic ties.

Lawmakers in the upper house (Senate) voted 127 to 86 in favour of the draft law outlawing genocide denial after almost six hours of debate. The lower house had backed it in December, prompting Ankara to cancel all economic, political and military meetings with Paris and recall its ambassador for consultations.

The bill had been made more general so that it outlawed the denial of any genocide, partly in the hope of appeasing the Turks. But Ankara condemned the bill's approval and said it would take permanent steps against France, a NATO ally.

The bill now goes to President Nicolas Sarkozy to be ratified. Turkey says the bill is a bid by Sarkozy to win the votes of 500,000 ethnic Armenians in France in the two-round presidential vote on April 22 and May 6.

"Turkey is committed to taking all the necessary steps against this unjust disposition which reduces basic human values and public conscience to nothing," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Turkish ambassador in Paris, Tahsin Burcuoglu, said the vote would lead to a "total rupture" of relations between the two countries. Ankara could seek to downgrade its diplomatic presence in Paris.

"When I say total rupture I include things like I can leave definitively," he told reporters.

"You can also expect that now diplomatic relations will be at the level of charges d'affaires not ambassadors anymore."   Continued...

Counter-demonstrators to a Franco-Turkish protest, gather near the Senate in Paris, January 23, 2012, ahead of a vote on a bill to make it illegal to deny the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago was genocide, raising the prospect of a major diplomatic rift between two NATO allies. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
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