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France passing a bill that would criminalize denying the Armenian genocide could jeopardize Turkish-French relations.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan blasted the French parliament for passing a “discriminatory and racist” bill which would make it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide, according to Reuters.
Tension flared between the NATO allies when the French Senate approved the draft law on Monday, and Turkey warned President Nicolas Sarkozy against ratifying the bill.
The law would subject anyone found to be denying the Armenian genocide with a possible jail term and a fine of $58,000, according to CNN.
The killings in 1915 of 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War were considered by historians as the 20th century’s first genocide. Armenia adheres to these numbers, while Turkey says the death toll is exaggerated. Turkey insists that hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Turks died from intercommunal violence, disease and the chaos of war.
The BBC reported that Erdogan told the Turkish parliament that the bill “murdered freedom of thought,” and that the bill was “a racist and discriminatory approach and if you cannot see this, then you are deaf to the footsteps of fascism in Europe.”
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The Turkish foreign ministry sees the bill as a cynical move by Sarkozy to win Armenian votes during the next election. France is home to 500,000 ethnic Armenians. According to the Guardian, the Turkish foreign ministry said that it was “unfortunate that the historical and multi-dimensional relations between the Republic of Turkey and France have been sacrificed to considerations of political agenda.”
Turkey has already suspended military, economic and political ties with Paris, according to the Associated Press. Some see the law as similar to another existing law that makes denying the Holocaust a crime in France.
The Turkish government remained vague on what actions it would take, but insisted it would take certain measures if the bill was passed and would “strongly use our right to defend ourselves on a legitimate basis against unfair allegations.”
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Al Jazeera reports on Turkey's reaction: