Turkey to France: Block Genocide Bill, or Else
Ankara is continuing to ratchet up tensions with Paris over a proposed French law to criminalize denial of claims that Turkey's mass killings of Armenians before and during World War I constitute genocide.
Ankara, which rejects the charge of genocide and argues the widespread killings of its Armenian minority occurred during civil strife in which many Turks died as well, dispatched a high-level delegation of parliamentarians in a last-minute bid to lobby against the proposed law.
Historians say up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, and several countries recognize the killings as genocide. Under the proposed French legislation, denying the genocide would be punishable by up to one year in prison along with a $58,000 fine.
On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a stinging attack on France, saying that no historian or politician can see genocide in Turkish history, and that those who do want to see genocide should turn around and look at their own "dirty and bloody history."
Relations between Turkey and France are already tense in connection with French President Nicolas Sarkozy's strong opposition to Ankara's bid to join the European Union. Erdogan last week reportedly sent a letter to Sarkozy warning of dire consequences if the legislation passes.
Diplomatic correspondent Semih Idiz of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet warns such threats should be taken seriously.
Posted by: tipper 2011-12-19