YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Recognition of the Armenian genocide must be a precondition for Turkey’s membership in the European Union, the first secretary of France’s main opposition Socialist Party said during a visit to Armenia on Thursday.
Francois Hollande arrived in Yerevan at the invitation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which has a warm rapport with his party.
Official sources said Turkish-Armenian relations featured large during his separate talks with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
Kocharian’s press office said the meeting was topped by issues related to the development of Armenian-French relations. Robert Kocharian was quoted as saying that the traditionally friendly Armenian-French relations are becoming stronger year by year embracing new areas of cooperation.
Hollande reiterated his belief that Turkey should recognize the Genocide before entering the EU and called for the immediate opening of the Turkish-Armenian border without preconditions. He also urged the immediate lifting of Ankara’s economic embargo on Armenia.
Kocharian welcomed the cooperation and partnership between the ARF and the French Socialist Party.
Hollande said his party has always supported all initiatives stemming from Armenia’s interests and was willing to promote the implementation of new programs.
Following the meetings with Armenian officials, Hollande held a press conference at the ARF Bureau headquarters.
“It can’t be possible for us to accept a country that has not addressed its historical record into Europe,” Hollande said after the talks, expressing his party’s position on Turkey’s membership in the EU. “We insist on that not to complicate but to facilitate Turkey’s accession process.”
“Our objective is the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey and application of punitive measures against the deniers of the fact,” said Hollande.
Asked what steps were being taken to include norms deriving from the Armenian Issue in the recurrent report on Turkey, Hollande said: “We shall certainly raise the question in the European Parliament. Months ago we applied to the Prime Minister of Turkey with the message that Turkey’s accession will become possible only in case of recognition of the Armenian Genocide. According to the new European Constitution, if an EU member-state opposes the entry of a candidate country, it cannot join the European Union. France’s position on Turkey’s membership will not change: Turkey cannot join the EU.”
The commen’s echoed statemen’s made by France’s former President Jacques Chirac. "Should Turkey recognize the genocide of Armenia to join the European Union? Honestly, I believe so,” during an official visit to Yerevan in September last year.
Hollande reaffirmed his party’s support for a Socialist-drafted bill that would it a crime in France to publicly state that the 1915-1918 mass killings of Armenia’s in Ottoman did not constitute a genocide. The bill was adopted by the lower house of the French parliament last year despite vehement protests from Ankara. To become a law, it needs to be passed by the French Senate.
“This bill is a matter of solidarity and honor. This is more than an Armenian issue because if the genocide is not remembered, nobody will be able to guarantee that there will be no repeat of such tragic events,” added Hollande.
Hollande went on to urge Turkey to unconditionally establishment diplomatic relations and open its border with Armenia. A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry quoted him as telling Oskanian that this must happen “as soon as possible.” It said Oskanian briefed him on Yerevan’s position on Turkish-Armenian relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenia’s ties with France were also high on the agenda of the talks, with Kocharian saying that they are “strengthening every year” and encompassing new spheres. Hollande was cited by Kocharian’s office as saying that the French Socialists are ready to assist in the “implementation of new programs and proposals aimed at developing cooperation between the two countries.”
"The French Socialist Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation have close ties. I do not wish to interfere in the domestic politics because there are elections coming but knowing well the role of the ARF in the Armenian history, I want that role to be greater," added Hollande at the news conference.
He said that the two parties have many things in common, reminding the press corps of both parties’ membership in Socialist International.
Hollande said his visit also aimed at better understanding the political position of Armenia.
Among the issues discussed was the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. "France is following the process and is a part of it. We want the process to bring results which will contribute to the stability in the region," Hollande said.
The French delegation also visited the Dzidzernagapert memorial monument and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.