Turks Slam French On Genocide Bill

PARIS (Reuters)–Turkish politicians accused France of "colonial arrogance" in a proposed bill to recognize claims of genocide against Armenia’s in 1915.

France’s National Assembly is due to vote next week on a motion recognizing that Ottoman Turks committed a "genocide" against Armenia’s during WW I–reviving an issue that has troubled Turkey’s drive to join the European Union.

"We consider this behavior–failing to take our point of view into account–is symptomatic of colonialist arrogance,” said Bulent Akarcali of the Motherland Party–one of the three coalition parties in the Turkish government. "We are being tried without getting the chance to put our case. They are acting as prosecutor–judge and executioner,” he told reporters during a trip to Paris where he and four others hope to change politicians’ minds before the January 18 vote.

In Ankara–Turkey’s parliament warned the French assembly it would be committing a crime against history if it approved the bill. France’s 300,000 strong Armenian community–one of Europe’s largest–has provided a backbone of support for the bill–which drew sharp criticism from the Turkish government when an identical motion was adopted by the French senate in November.

Outrage erupted in Ankara a week later when the European Parliament passed a resolution formally accusing Turkey of genocide against Armenia’s.

A similar resolution backed by the Armenian lobby in the US Congress in October badly strained relations between Ankara and Washington–but was dropped after US President Bill Clinton said it would hurt US security interests.

Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora accuse Turks of deliberately killing more than 1.5 million Armenia’s in eastern Anatolia as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated. Turkey disputes the figure–arguing that while killings occurred in the chaos of the collapsing empire–they were part of wider partisan fighting and that all sides suffered.

A French politician backing the bill said the facts left no doubt that a genocide had taken place–but said the bill’s sponsors had no wish to harm relations with Turkey.

"On a moral and ethical level the genocide must be recognized," said deputy Francois Rochebloine. "It’s not a judgment on the present Turkish government."

Turkish politicians said it was hypocritical for France to judge Turkey but brush aside calls for an inquiry into torture by French troops during Algeria’s war for independence.

French President Jacques Chirac rejected calls from French Communists and intellectuals last month that France perform an act of repentance and launch an inquiry into the 1954-1962 war–one of the most painful episodes in recent French history.

"This is double standards. When it’s about Algeria they are happy to leave it to history–but when it is about Turkey they will not,” said Turkish politician Tayyibe Gulek.

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