FranceTakes Stand Against Genocide Bill

PARIS (Reuters)–The French government has warned that a parliamentary motion condemning as genocide the 1915 killing of thousands of Armenia’s by Turks could harm France’s relations with Turkey.

The bill–which states that "France publicly recognizes the Armenian genocide of 1915," was approved by the National Assembly in May and Senate leaders are to decide next week whether to put it on their agenda.

Turkish officials were outraged by the National Assembly vote on the genocide motion and have warned NATO ally France of unspecified dire diplomatic and economic consequences if the bill is passed.

"Is it up to the law to proclaim the ‘truth’ on this historic tragedy? The government does not think so–and the president (Jacques Chirac) shares this opinion," Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

His commen’s were delivered during a closed-door hearing and the Senate released a text on Thursday.

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman’said last June that Ankara was suspending signing of a $145 million deal to buy Eryx missiles from France until after it had seen what happened to the genocide motion in the Senate.

French diplomats have told Turkish officials the government has no say over the actions of the National Assembly and that the row has nothing to do with current ties between Turkey and France or Turkey and Europe.

But until now–government officials have not attempted to influence parliamentarians about how to vote on the measure.

Vedrine told the Senate foreign relations committee that French policy was to end conflicts and overcome hatred and he questioned whether the controversial bill served these aims.

"We fear that adoption of this bill would serve–above all–the interests of those who favor isolation–authoritarian nationalism and the repudiation of the values of progress and openness," he said.

Vedrine’s remarks were "widely approved by the members of the committee," the Senate said in a statement accompanying the text.

France’s 300,000-strong Armenian community is one of Europe’s largest.

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