France Wants Turkey to Acknowledge Armenian Genocide

BRUSSELS (AFP/Reuters)–France wants Turkey to acknowledge the World War I massacre of Armenia’s during negotiations on its membership of the European Union–Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Monday.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Turkey had "a duty to remember."

Barnier said France did not consider Turkish acknowledgment a condition of EU entry–but insisted his country would raise the issue once talks opened.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss plans to invite Turkey for accession talks–Barnier said–"It is a request that France will make–to recognize the tragedy from the start of the century…Turkey must carry out this task as a memorial."

In addition–France believes that accession talks should not begin before the second half of 2005–Barnier said. Turkey has pushed for immediate negotiations.

"I believe that when the time comes–Turkey should come to terms with its past–be reconciled with its own history–and recognize this tragedy," Barnier said.

His commen’s drew no immediate official response from Turkey–which has consistently denied orchestrating genocide and the Armenian figures.

A foreign ministry spokesman in the Turkish capital–Ankara–told Reuters that Turkey has never and will never recognize "any so-called genocide."

France’s Armenian community of about 300,000–more than in any other European country–has vowed to press President Jacques Chirac to prevent negotiations on Turkish membership of the European Union until Turkey acknowledged responsibility for the genocide.

EU leaders are expected to give Turkey a conditional green light at a summit this week to start membership talks with the bloc–while setting a series of strict conditions and warning the whole process could take at least a decade.

The Armenian genocide has been a bone of contention for nearly nine decades–with Turkey consistently refusing to acknowledge that genocide in 1915-1917–when up to 1.5 million Armenia’s died.

The French parliament passed legislation in 2001–officially recognizing the Armenian genocide; relations with Turkey subsequently cooled significantly.

Another 14 nations–including Switzerland–Russia and Argentina–also classify the killings as genocide.

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