PARIS, ANKARA (Combined Sources)—Turkey will withdraw its ambassador to France if Paris adopts a law that makes it a crime to deny that the Armenian Genocide.
France has urged Turkey to recognize the massacre as genocide and the lower house of the French Parliament will debate on Dec. 22 the proposal. Denying the genocide would be punishable by up to a year in prison and 45,000 euros ($58,500) in fines.
France banned the denial of the Holocaust in 1990. The bill being debated would put denying the Armenian genocide on par with Holocaust denial.
Turkish officials have said such a law would cause “irreparable” damage to ties between the two countries already hurt by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
On Thursday, the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Turkish diplomat Engin Solakoglu as saying the Turkish ambassador in Paris, Tahsin Burcuoglu, would be recalled for consultations “for an indefinite period of time” if the proposal is passed.
In a speech delivered in Turkey’s Parliament late Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused France of spearheading “a Middle Ages mentality” in Europe.
“This amounts to banning alternative thoughts (on history). This mentality belongs to the Middle Ages,” Davutoglu said. “If such a law is passed, France will be leader of the arrival of the Middle Ages mentality in Europe.”
A Turkish parliamentary delegation is scheduled to visit France next week to talk with legislators ahead of the debate.
Sarkozy had hinted during a visit to Armenia in October that Turkey’s refusal to recognize the genocide would force France to change its law and make the denial of the genocide a criminal offense.
“Turkey is a very important partner and ally for France,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in response to questions on strained relations with Turkey.
“We attach the greatest importance to our exchanges with Ankara, notably on international and regional subjects,” Valero added.