The French Senate has passed a bill which makes it a crime to publicly deny that the Ottoman Empire's 1915 killings of Armenians was a genocide. The move sparked fresh condemnation from Turkey, and could lead to further tension.
The upper house of parliament voted 127-86 in favor of the legislation on Monday, after it had been passed by the National Assembly, France's lower house, last month. To become a law, the bill must be signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose party proposed it.
Denying the Holocaust in France is already a crime punishable by a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros; the same punishment would apply to the law the on Armenian Genocide.
The legislation was passed despite Turkey’s threats to retaliate with new sanctions on France – in addition to Ankara's suspension of military, economic and political ties with France after the National Assembly approved the bill.
Following the vote, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded the French bill “racist and discriminatory”. The Turkish foreign ministry warned that should it be passed into law, Ankara will hold on to sanctions it imposed against France in response to the legislation being put on the table.
“Those who thought that we reacted too harshly to the events, or that our response would be in words only, simply can’t comprehend the issue, Turkey or the Turkish nation,” a statement of the ministry said.
Turkey denies the massacre that claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives – and is the event for which the word “genocide” was created – was a genocide. France, on its part, insists that the new law would not harm Turkey.
“The law does not condemn Turkey in any way. It just sets sanctions for actions aimed at denying several cases of genocide. It is all about implementing European directives, the responsibilities of the French parliament,” French Interior Minister Claude Guéant insisted in an interview.
Executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian, told RT that Monday's vote in the French Senate was “the approval of genocide-prevention measures – and a vote for a world without genocide.”
It is also a step forward mounting pressure on Turkey to “finally come to terms with Armenian genocide both truthfully and justly,” he insists.
However, Hamparian doubts that Turkey is serious about its threats. “It’s a paper tiger – they make very vocal threats but ultimately don’t follow through,” he says. “They are going to do what they do in terms of trade and military relations based on their own interests.”