Turkey Warns France On Genocide Bill

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey has warned France that relations between the two countries will be damaged if its senate passes a bill accusing Ottoman Turks of genocide against Armenia’s in 1915–officials said on Wednesday.

The foreign ministry said the Senate was due to consider the bill next Tuesday–only weeks after a crisis with Washington over a similar resolution before the US Congress.

That motion–sponsored by Armenian groups–was dropped after President Bill Clinton warned it could damage ties with Turkey–a key strategic partner on the fringe of the Middle East. Turkey had threatened commercial and political sanctions.

A foreign ministry spokesman’said President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Parliament Speaker Omer Izgi had sent warning letters to their French counterparts last week.

The official quoted Sezer’s letter to French President Jacques Chirac as saying that “the passage of the bill would deal a serious blow to Turkish-French relations.” It would also block efforts to normalize relations between Ankara and Yerevan and not contribute to peace in the Caucasus–the letter said.

“There are some in the senate who are against that voting. We work and hope that it will be canceled,” the official said.

The French National Assembly approved the bill two years ago but the bid was shelved by the senate after Turkey suspended the signing of a $145 million deal to buy Eryx missiles from a French firm.

Approval of the bill–expected a day before an important step in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union–could also trouble the country’s relations with the union–of which France currently holds the rotating presidency.

The Istanbul-based Marmara newspaper reported that similar letters have been dispatched by Turkish Parliament Speaker Omer Izgi to the chairmen of the Italian Parliament and the French Senate–expressing his concern over the scheduled votes on the Genocide. The Turkish leader also added that no parliament has the right to approve legislation regarding another country’s history.

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