France is set to vote on Jan. 23 on a bill that would make it illegal to deny the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottomon Turks amounted to genocide, a French minister said on Wednesday.
Lawmakers in France's National Assembly -- the lower house of parliament -- voted overwhelmingly in favor of a draft law outlawing genocide denial in December, leading Ankara to cancel all economic, political and military meetings with Paris and recalling its ambassador for consultations.
The Senate was expected to hold hearings on the bill on Jan. 5 and 11 to which legal experts, officials from Turkish and Armenian groups and the Turkish and Armenian ambassadors to Paris would be invited, said Socialist senators Philippe Kaltenbach and Luc Carvounas.
The bill should then be presented to the Senate for a final vote in the last week of January. Its backers want to see the process completed before parliament is suspended at the end of February ahead of presidential elections in April and May.
About 50 lawmakers were present during the debates on the bill before the lower house enacted it last month. The majority of the lawmakers, including Patrick Ollier, the government minister in charge of relations with parliament who addressed the session on behalf of the government, opposed an amendment proposal which said academic and scientific studies on history should be exempt from punishment set by the bill.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has described the bill as "politics based on racism, discrimination and xenophobia" and turned his anger on French President Nicolas Sarkozy, accusing France of colonial massacres in Algeria.
France's government has stressed that the bill, which mandates a maximum 45,000-euro fine and a year in jail for offenders, was not its own initiative but that of a lawmaker in Sarkozy's conservative party.
An initial bid to punish denial of the Armenian genocide failed earlier this year, killed by the Senate five years after it was passed by the lower house.
France is Turkey's fifth biggest export market and the sixth biggest source of its imports, with bilateral trade worth $14 billion in the first 10 months of 2011.
Ollier told French media on Monday that his government will bring the bill to the agenda of Senate, adding that he believes there is general consensus on this matter among government officials.
He said following the hearings in the Senate, the bill will be put into a vote one day until Jan. 26.