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Rupture in Franco-Turk ties

Filed on January 25, 2012

Ankara has reacted strongly to the passing of a “genocide” bill by the French Senate, threatening to sever all ties with its Nato partner.

The bill that is yet to be signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy makes it a crime to deny that the killings of Armenians by Turks in the last century was genocide. Considering this a blot on its national honour, Turkey has condemned the French move, what it terms an “unfair allegation” in the strongest possible terms.

It is naïve to suppose that the French government had a purely altruistic motive behind this move for the sake of the Armenians. Especially now when the run up to the presidential elections is around the corner, Sarkozy’s ambitions to secure the 500,000 votes of Armenians living in France seem to be the deciding factor.

So do we expect all ties to be cut off between the two states once Sarkozy signs the dotted line? Probably, given Turkey’s sensitivity to the term genocide against the Armenians which was accepted by France much earlier. Successive Turkish governments have been denying and strongly protesting the term genocide used to describe the killings of more than a million Armenians in 1915-16. Turkey has long maintained that the number of those killed was much smaller than is being alleged and that the conflict with the Armenians was not genocide. The fact that France has now taken this matter to another level and has bound it into a legislation whereby anyone denying it could face at least a year inprison and a hefty fine is the tipping point. Though France has tried to play down the Turkish factor and has said that the genocide bill was general and did not single out any specific country, the damage is already done. The passing of the same bill by France’s Lower House last month had led to Turkey freezing ties. With the Senate having given the go ahead with only the President left to sign it into a formal legislation, this could be the final blow to the multilateral relations between the two.

Irrespective of how Sarkozy now handles this delicate matter, the bigger question is if France’s recent legislations, including the banning of the veil along with the punishable by law genocide bill are even justified in terms of individual liberty and freedom of choice.





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