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Turkey and France in growing confrontation over French ‘genocide bill’

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The French bill requires a prison term of up to one year and a fine of $58,000 (45,000 euros) to anyone who publicly denies the mass killings of the Armenians during World War I.  In 2001, France officially recognized the ‘Armenian genocide’ but a subsequent parliamentary effort to criminalize it was dropped by the Senate.

"It is important, in the current context, that we keep the paths of dialogue and cooperation open," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement.

French lawmakers were vexed over what they saw as Turkish interference into the country’s internal affairs.

"Laws voted in this chamber cannot be dictated by Ankara," said Jean-Christophe Lagarde, a deputy from the New Center party, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reports.

The author of the bill, Valerie Boyer, a deputy from Sarkozy’s Union For Popular Movement Party (UMP), said her bill  “is inspired by European law, which says that the people who deny the existence of the genocides must be sanctioned” and criticized Turkey’s threats, according to Today’s Zaman.

Although there is little consensus, Armenians say that about 1.5 million people were killed during the mass deportations of 1915-16.  The Turkish government acknowledges the death of many Armenians, yet, it denies that Ottoman forces deliberately exterminated them.  Turkey considers the numbers as inflated and says that Turks were also killed due to the upheaval that followed the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

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