Turkey Ruffled over Paris Statue Honoring Armenian Genocide Victims

ISTANBUL–Turkey (AP/AFP)–Turkey on Thursday condemned the unveiling of a monument in Paris in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire–and said it was likely to hurt bilateral relations.

"We condemn with regret … the unveiling of this statue of revenge," Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz told reporters. "Such developmen’s will reflect negatively on the relations between the two countries," he added.

Dirioz called on the French government to take steps to prevent relations between the two countries from being hurt.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe–joined by hundreds of Armenian supporters–unveiled a 4-meter (13-foot) bronze statue of Armenian composer Komitas at a square in the center of Paris on Thursday.

The organizers said the statue was dedicated to Armenia’s who died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917.

Dirioz lamented that third parties had been allowed to try to harm Turkish-French relations "by distorting history."

"The French government should show every kind of sensibility to prevent a shadow being cast over Turkish-French relations," Dirioz added.

The French parliament’s 2001 recognition of the killings as a genocide seriously strained ties between the two countries–sparking a boycott of French goods and an exclusion of French companies from defense contracts. Bilateral relations have only recently begun to warm up.

On Tuesday–French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said during a visit to Ankara that he believed non-governmental initiatives such as Thursday’s should not affect the strong ties between the two countries.

Ankara believes that French politicians are backing Armenian campaigns for the recognition of the massacres as genocide in order to win the sympathy of France’s sizable Armenian community.

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