France’s Senate today adopted a law criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915, a development sure to provoke even greater tensions with Turkey, which has promised to impose economic sanctions as a result, according to Reuters.
Update: Reacting to the decision, Turkey's ambassador to Paris Tahsin Burcuoglu has said he will likely be recalled and diplomatic relations with France downgraded as a a resulf of today's vote, Reuters has subsequently reported.
The text is now to be sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose party the Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, proposed the draft law and who is expected to sign and thereby enact it.
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Turkey has long vigorously denied that Ottoman Turks exterminated part of the Armenian population between 1915 and 1917 in the 20th century’s first genocide. Historians generally support the view that the genocide did occur.
According to the French daily Le Monde, the law provides penalties of up to a year in prison and fines of 45,000 euros, or about $58,000, for the negation of genocides recognized under French law, including the Armenian genocide.
France had in 1990 already enacted the Gayssot Act, which likewise criminalized the negation of the extermination of Jews by Germany during World War II.
A French court in 1995 ordered the American historian Bernard Lewis to pay symbolic damages of 1 French Franc for having written that claims of genocide were the “Armenian version” of history.
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Prior to its passage, Turkey had threatened to continue imposing sanctions on France of it the law enacted, according to The Associated Press. The Eurasian nation had already suspended military, economic and political ties.
As debate got underway in the Senate, rival demonstrations, pro-Turk and pro-Armenian, occurred outside, according to the AP, which said an estimated 500,000 Armenians live in France.
As many as 1.5 million Armenians are thought to have been killed in the 1915 genocide.
Reuters said Burcuoglu, the Turkish ambassador, told reporters that the repercussions of todays' vote would be far-reaching.
"You can imagine everything and anything because it's a sensitive issue for Turkey. Now everybody will pay some price including Turkey, France and Armenia," he was quoted as saying.