President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Turkey on Friday that it might soon become illegal in France to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was genocide.Source: Reuters
Sarkozy, in Armenia, his first stop on a visit to the Caucasus, called on Turkey to make a "gesture of reconciliation" and recognize the killings as genocide.
If it does not, he said, France "will consider it must go further to amend its legislation to penalize this denial."
Sarkozy warned the measures could be adopted in "a very brief" timeframe but said the comments were not an ultimatum.
The challenge by the president of France -- which opposes Turkey's bid to join the European Union -- drew an angry rebuttal from Ankara on Friday.
Turkey's Foreign Minister said France should confront its colonial past before giving lessons to others. The French "do not have the right to teach Turkey a history lesson or call for Turkey to face its history," Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference.
Armenia, backed by many historians and world parliaments, says some 1.5 million Armenians died during the upheaval that accompanied World War I, and calls it genocide.
Ankara rejects the term genocide and says large numbers of both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks were killed.
Sarkozy courted some 500,000 Armenian diaspora votes in France and angered Turkey before his election in 2007 by backing legislation that would prosecute those who denied the deaths were genocide. The measure was rejected by the French lower house of parliament.
The demand was immediately rebuffed by Turkey.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's call for Turkey to recognise the World War I-era massacres of Armenians as genocide was rejected Friday by Ankara's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis.Source: AFP
Sarkozy would do better to concern himself with getting France out of its economic crisis than to play historian over the Armenian question, Bagis said during a visit to Sarajevo, the Anatolia agency reported.
"It would be better... if Monsieur Sarkozy abandons the role of historian and puts his mind to getting his country out of the economic gulf in which it finds itself and comes up with plans for the future of the European Union," he said.
"Our mission, as politicians, is not to define the past or past events. It is to define the future," he added.
He accused Sarkozy of exploiting the Armenia question for electoral reasons in the run-up to next year's presidential election, he said.