By Konstantin Garibov
The relations between Paris and Ankara became strained on Thursday after the French National Assembly passed a draft law equaling the denial of the Ottoman era genocide of Armenians to a crime.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said that his country was suspending all political, military and business relations with Paris. On Friday Turkey recalled its ambassador to France.
Twenty countries and international organizations, including Russia and the European Parliament, recognize what happened to nearly 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in 1915-1916 as genocide. During WW I the Ottoman Empire (and Turkey being heir to the Ottomans) fought with Germany against England, France and Russia. Armenians then took the Russian side, and shortly after that mass deportations of Armenians began, during which almost half of the Armenian population of that time died. Turkey says 1.5 million is an overstated figure, claiming that both sides suffered huge losses at the time due to an armed uprising of Armenians.
France admitted the genocide ten years ago. Nevertheless, the very first attempt made by Nicolas Sarkozy`s Union for a Popular Movement party to adopt a bill making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide failed. The party has again suggested the issue for discussion this time. Ankara accused Paris of using history to serve the political interests of France ahead of the presidential elections next year. Yuri Rubinsky, head of the Center for French Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says there is likely to be a grain of truth in it…
“There is certainly a political dimension about this issue. Estimated 500,000 ethnic Armenians are currently living in France, many of them enjoying high posts in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. So, this draft law by all means a trump card as far as the election campaign is concerned.”
This draft law is likely to win Nicolas Sarkozy many Armenian votes, says Krikor Izyakyan, who represents the Armenian diaspora in the French parliament…
“I am satisfied with the decision. Our grandparents were not liars, they suffered genocide. Some of the survived, others died.”
‘Hunting’ for people’s votes in this manner may have absolutely opposite consequences. Turks who protested against the draft law in Paris on Thursday may gain support of French citizens who come from other countries, too. One of the protesters shared his opinion…
“I know what they have against us. This started so long ago, almost a century. And now this offers us nothing but further escalation of tensions.”
Now the draft law will be debated by the upper house – the Senate on January 5th . The Senate is currently controlled by the Socialists, who first initiated the law on genocide in 2001. The parliament’s upper house is expected to vote on making it a crime to deny the Ottoman era genocide of Armenians with a prison term of one year and a fine of 45,000 euros. Some will call it Mr. Sarkozy`s preliminary victory in next year’s re-election, others will describe it as the EU`s gesture of sympathy to the Armenians, while there will be some commentators who will see it as another attempt to prevent Turkey from entering the EU. As far as Sarkozy`s chances for a second term are concerned, he might face a defeat in case the relations between Armenia and Turkey become even more strained, with Ankara having doubts over its membership in the EU.