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French genocide law ruling averts 'serious crisis': Turkey

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivers a speech at an international conference on conflict mediation in Istanbul on February 25, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / MUSTAFA OZER)

ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday welcomed the rejection by France's top judicial body of a bill outlawing the denial of Armenian genocide, saying it had averted a "serious crisis" in relations.

"The Constitutional Council made the right decision that does not indulge political concerns," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in a twitter message.

"This decision has averted a potentially serious crisis in Turkish-French ties."

France's Constitutional Council, in deeming the bill unconstitutional, "gave a lesson in law to the French politicians who signed the bill, which was an example of absurdity," said Arinc.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the decision by the council would prevent future attempts to pass such laws.

"It is a decision that will set a precedent. It is an important step that will legally avert future exploitations," Davutoglu told reporters. "I hope the French administration will respect this decision."

However, soon after the ruling by the top French court was announced, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered his government to draft a new law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide.

Turkey halted political and military cooperation with France after the Senate approved the law, which threatens with jail anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide.

France has already officially recognised the killings as a genocide, but the new law would have gone further by punishing anyone who denies this with up to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915 and 1916 by the forces of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.

Turkey disputes the figure, arguing that 500,000 died, and denies this was genocide, ascribing the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I and accusing the Armenians of siding with Russian invaders.

 

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