Turkey and France sought to thaw icy bilateral ties on Friday, but Ankara made it clear that its bitterness over a French bill accusing the Ottomans of an Armenian genocide was far from over, said reports.
"We are looking ahead, without wiping out the past," Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said after a meeting with his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine, on an official visit to Turkey.
The traditionally warm relations between Turkey and France deteriorated sharply in January when the French parliament adopted a law recognizing as genocide the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s.
In retaliation, a furious Ankara scrapped a series of joint projects with France, mainly in the defense sector, and recalled its ambassador from Paris.
"Military relations and some ties of strategic importance have been cut down. This will continue as long as the (Turkish) government does not decide otherwise," Cem said, cited by the Turkish Daily News on Friday.
"My counterpart may not agree with this, but he respects this decision," he added.
The Turkish minister also said that Ankara regretted what he described as insufficient efforts by the Paris government to prevent the adoption of the genocide bill at the time.
Vedrine, for his part, said his government understood that the Turkish public was sensitive about the issue, but had to respect the resolution of the parliament.
"The aim of my visit is to continue and strengthen cooperation. We still attribute significant importance to our bilateral relations," he said.
Turkey, the successor of the Ottoman Empire, categorically rejects claims of an Armenian genocide, saying that around 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in internal fighting in the dissolution years of the empire.
Armenians, however, maintain that 1.5 million people died in orchestrated massacres.
Relations between Ankara and Paris had already showed some signs of improvement ahead of Vedrine's visit.
Turkey's ambassador returned to Paris in May, and a major delegation of French businessmen visited Turkey last week in a sign of support for Turkey's efforts to battle a severe economic crisis that has battered the country since February, said AFP.
"We wish to continue a positive rapprochement, mainly in the economic and cultural realms," Cem said.
While Ankara is hosting Vedrine, additional visits are to take place from Paris, said the paper.
French Minister for Foreign Trade Huvard was invited to Ankara by Turkish Minister for Industry and Trade Ahmet Kenan Tanrikulu, and French Defense Minister is expected to visit Ankara.
A well-informed Turkish official refers to the fact that two important papers related with Turkey's European Union journey were signed during the French EU Presidency.
The two significant documents were the agreement on Turkey's accession to the Customs Union, signed during the French Presidency while Alain Juppe was foreign minister on March 6, 1995, and the Accession Partnership Accord, signed again during the French Presidency on Dec. 4, 2000 – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )