French genocide bill angers Turkey

TURKEY’S prime minister yesterday sharply criticised France for a bill that would make it a crime to deny the World War I-era mass killing of Armenians was genocide.

Saying France should investigate what he claimed was its own “dirty and bloody history” in Algeria and Rwanda, Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted Turkey would respond “through all kinds of diplomatic means”.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks as their empire collapsed, an event many international experts regard as genocide and that France recognised as such in 2001.

Turkish leaders reject the term, arguing that the toll is inflated, that there were deaths on both sides and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

On December 22, the lower house of French parliament will debate a proposal that would make denying that the massacre was genocide punishable by up to a year in prison and €45,000 ($58,500) in fines, putting it on par with Holocaust denial, banned in the country in 1990. Mr Erdogan criticised France yesterday, saying there were reports that France was responsible for the deaths of 45,000 people in Algeria in 1945 and for the massacre of up to 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994.

“No historian, no politician can see genocide in our history,” Mr Erdogan said. “Those who do want to see genocide should turn around and look at their own dirty and bloody history.

“The French National Assembly should shed light on Algeria, it should shed light on Rwanda,” he said.

France had troops in Rwanda, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame has accused the country of doing little to stop the country’s genocide.

There was no immediate reaction from France. Ties between the two countries are already strained by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

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