Turkish Exasperation Over French “Genocide” Bill

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey denounced France over a parliamentary bill accusing Turks of genocide against Armenia’s in 1915–but a certain weariness was visible behind Friday’s screaming banner headlines.

"For long years–Turkey thought it enough to proclaim there was no genocide–but has taken no concrete steps to show that genocide did not happen," wrote Mine Kirikkanat–a columnist in the newspaper Radikal. How far can anyone trust the sincerity of a state that has not yet classified its Ottoman archives–has not translated them into modern Turkish?" she added. "I want to know the truth."

Newspaper headlines told another story–wearily echoing similar declarations published after first the US Congress and then the European Parliament voted to accuse Turks of massacring Armenia’s as the Ottoman Empire unraveled 85 years ago.

"Let’s drown (Jacques) Chirac under messages" screamed Milliyet–publishing the French president’s telephone and fax number and e-mail address.

The nationalist Ortadogu labeled France "The Cannibals of Algeria"France–the killer of thousands of Algerians–accuses Turkey of genocide."

"France Plays With Fire," proclaimed the business newspaper Dunya. "Ankara And Turkish Business World Preparing For Retaliatory Action."

Some called for commercial sanctions against France–a member of the European Union which Turkey seeks to join. rance is Turkey’s fifth biggest trading partner. Turkey’s imports from France reached $2.8 billion in the first 10 months of last year–up 6.5 percent over the same period in 1999. Exports to France amounted to $1.3 billion. rench firms have a close interest in lucrative defense deals and energy projects–and Turkey’s politically influential military is shopping for battle tanks and strike helicopters.

"Turkey must control its reaction," Sabah columnist Gungor Mengi said. "We cannot stand against the whole world. Ignoring the failure of our policy in this matter may make the hawks of Ankara happy but will not make for a happy future." After France’s parliament–responding to some 400,000 Armenian voters–passed the bill on Thursday–Turkey condemned it as "a mistake in the face of history" and announced it was recalling its ambassador for consultations.

The genocide issue has been hanging over Turkey for decades. But Ankara has done little to argue its case. Former foreign minister Mumtaz Soysal said Turkey had repeatedly failed to anticipate challenges. "There is a Turkish saying," he commented. "A Turk always comes to his senses when it’s too late."

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