Turkey Summons French Ambassador Over Armenian Genocide Bill
Turkey summoned the French ambassador Wednesday to protest approval by the French Senate of a Bill recognizing the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as "genocide".
A diplomat, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the envoy, Bernard Garcia, had been asked to come to the Turkish foreign ministry for talks.
The genocide bill was adopted in the French upper house with an overwhelming majority early Wednesday amid cheers from a crowd of Armenians who cried "bravo" and sung the "Marseillaise" the French national anthem.
It passed through the Senate in the teeth of strong opposition from the French government and foreign ministry, which fears the move, will jeopardize relations with Turkey.
The Bill -- which stipulates that "France publicly recognizes the Armenian genocide of 1915" -- drew an angry response from leading conservative politicians from the Motherland Party (ANAP) of Turkey's ruling coalition.
Kamran Inan, who heads parliament's foreign affairs commission, blasted the Senate approval as a "decision to please a handful of voters" and warned that it might affect economic ties, especially in the defense industry, between Turkey and France.
"If the Bill is adopted in the French lower chamber, it will deliver a heavy blow to Turkish French relations. The position of the French government is very important now," Inan told AFP.
"If the government supports it, there will be diplomatic repercussions. If it does not, Turkey will take note of it," he added.
ANAP deputy chairman Bulent Akarcali also slammed the Bill as a "shame for the French Senate" and accused French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of "doing absolutely nothing" for failing to stop the bill.
"(The senators) want to try to clean their own consciences for the crimes France committed in Indochina, Africa or elsewhere, by using Turkey as a detergent," Akarcali told AFP in a telephone interview.
"The French Senate judged, decided, condemned and executed Turkey without having the courage to meet its representatives," Akarcali added in reference to a delegation of Turkish MPs, including himself, who led a failed bid to meet the French senators.
The French text needs to be re-submitted to the national assembly and will face a long parliamentary battle to become law because of procedural complications, according to officials.
Two weeks ago, Turkey breathed a sigh of relief when a non-binding resolution on the Armenian genocide was pulled from the US House of the Representatives.
The bill was dropped after US President Bill Clinton warned that it would harm Washington's national security interests.
Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians were killed in 1915. Turkey categorically rejects genocide claims and maintains that some 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in civil strife during the dissolution years of the Ottoman Empire -- ANKARA (AFP)
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