Turkish PM in Paris Peppered With Probes on Genocide

PARIS (AYFFM1 )–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan–during his official visit to France–held a press conference in Paris on Monday–July 19–in the course of which he attempted to alleviate widespread concerns in French public opinion regarding Turkey’s candidacy for accession to the European Union.

Erdogan said there is no need for concern in France–because December 17–2004 is not the date by which Turkey would be joining the European Union. Rather–that is when a date would be set for starting negotiations–he stressed.

Erdogan was in France July 19-20–after having visited Germany and Holland–in an attempt to secure support.

Turkey has recently undertaken a massive public relations campaign in an attempt to show that it is making significant progress toward meeting the European Council’s Copenhagen Criteria for Turkey’s accession to the Union and should therefore receive a date for beginning accession talks.

Five of the approximately 15 questions put to Erdogan during the press conference were on Armenian topics–including the Armenian Genocide. In his responses–Erdogan did not attempt to term the Genocide "alleged" or "so called" or otherwise refute the fact of its occurrence.

He did say–however–that the Armenian Genocide is a matter of the past and should be left up to historians. He stressed that it is necessary to focus on the part of the glass that is full and to look toward the future.

Erdogan was asked about what assurance he could give that Turkey would adhere to the decisions of the European Parliament if Turkey were to become a member of it–when in fact it has not complied with the 18 June 1987 decision of the Parliament–which set forth the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the resolution of the Cyprus and Kurdish problems as preconditions for Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

Erdogan replied–"We respect and implement [only] those decisions that are binding."

An Azerbaijani television reporter asked the Prime Minister–"Previously you used to say that to normalize relations with Armenia it is necessary to resolve the Karabagh question–but now you talk about the Genocide issue and final recognition by Armenia of Turkey’s borders. Which is the more fundamental issue?"

Erdogan replied that regarding both sets of issues all sides must work hand-in-hand to reach just resolutions and live in a peaceful environment. He added that in any event the populations of the Armenia-Turkey border area wish to see the Armenia-Turkey border opened.

The reporter of the Turkish Zaman paper asked what Turkey would do if the French Parliament passes a law criminalizing denial of the Genocide–and whether that issue had been a subject of discussions with the French President and Premier. Erdogan replied that no such discussions have taken place–and–in any event–he does not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

The Turkish Prime Minister also referred to France-Turkey relation–economic matters–the Middle East crisis–and Iraq? always attempting to present himself as a peace-loving and democratic leader.

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