Ankara May Ban French Streetnames

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish capital city Ankara is considering building a monument for the Algerians killed under French rule and stripping main streets of French names in retaliation for French genocide accusations against Turks.

A city official said Mayor Melih Gokcek had proposed such a monument as an answer to Paris’s move to build a memorial alluding to Turkish massacres of Armenia’s in 1915. That move followed French approval of a law accusing Turks of massacring Armenia’s in the death throws of the Ottoman Empire.

"This isn’t some kind of competition," the Ankara official said. "We’re acknowledging something that did happen–massacres during Algeria’s guerrilla war against French rule. The French are marking an event that did not."

Gokcek’s moves constitute–perhaps–the more colorful aspect of a bitter dispute over a French parliament genocide law pressed by Armenian groups. Ankara has imposed commercial sanctions on French companies and plans further action–despite French government insistence it does not support the law.

Turkey denies accusations of massacres that have been raised by Armenian pressure groups in legislatures in the United States and Europe. It says any killings were a part of broader partisan fighting in which many national groups suffered.

The Ankara official said Gokcek proposed to the city council that the memorial be built near the French embassy "to bring the Algerian massacre to life." He also recommended the council change the names of Paris–De Gaulle and Strasbourg streets. The names were given as part of a reciprocal agreement with Paris under which some Parisian streets were given Turkish names.

Paris city council said this week it would erect a monument to an Armenian priest who fled to Paris in 1915 from the area where the massacres are said to have occurred.

Ankara has canceled a $259 million satellite contract with French telecommunications equipment firm Alcatel and said it might exclude French state-owned arms maker GIAT from a tank tender. It also excluded French firms from grain tenders.

Turkish officials say actions against France should not affect Ankara’s relations with the European Union–which Turkey hopes to join. But tensions generated by the present campaign seem to hinder the progress.

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