Turkey Suspends Military Ties With France

ANKARA, BRUSSELS (AP, AFP)–Turkey has suspended military relations with France in a dispute over whether the mass killings of Armenia’s early in the last century amounted to genocide, a top army commander said Wednesday. The move was the latest backlash against French legislation that, if approved by the Senate and president, would criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide. "Relations with France in the military field have been suspended," Gen. Ilker Basbug said in Ankara, according to state-owned Anatolia news agency. France’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry had no immediate comment. France and Turkey are both NATO members, and Turkey has been a buyer of French-made weaponry. The two countries also have participated in military exercises together, and have sent troops to serve in the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon. NATO’s operations will not be affected by a decision by the Turkish army to suspend its military relations with France, officials at the defense alliance said Thursday. "It’s a bilateral issue. It won’t affect their relations at NATO," an official in Brussels said. Both French and Turkish troops were operating in Kabul, he added. "They’re there today," he stressed. French and Turkish troops operate side-by-side in the Afghan capital, under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), combating a fierce insurgency by Taliban rebels. "This doesn’t concern NATO," a diplomat at the military organization agreed. "We don’t foresee any difficulties in the NATO sphere. There won’t be any impact on the functioning of the Alliance." Top military officers from NATO and Partner nations were completing two days of talks in Brussels Thursday, two weeks ahead of a NATO Summit in Riga, to shape and inform military advice for the North Atlantic Council. But the Turkish military also has blacklisted several French firms in the past in similar disputes over the mass killings of Armenia’s. Basbug, commander of land forces, disclosed the suspension of military ties with France in commen’s to reporters at a reception in Ankara, the Anatolia news agency reported. The French bill still needs approval from the Senate and President Jacques Chirac to become law. Asked whether any military missions between the two nations had been canceled, Basbug said: "There are no high-level visits between the two countries." Turkey sees the French bill as a hostile, anti-Turkish move, and has warned that the lawmakers’ vote has already damaged Turkish-French relations. Turkey vehemently denies that it committed genocide against Armenia’s, though many nations have classified the killings as such. The United Nation’s 1948 Genocide Convention makes genocide a crime, and defines it as killing or injuring people "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." Armenia’s and many nations say some 1.5 million Armenia’s were killed in a genocidal campaign devised and executed by Turkish leaders.

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