French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a tour of Caucasus countries, repeated his well-known opposition to Turkey's membership in the EUropean Union on Friday, saying his country does not consider Turkey a part of the 27-nation bloc.
“Located in Asia Minor, Turkey has an important role in the world. It is a bridge between the East and the West,” Sarkozy was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying at a news conference during his visit to Armenia, his first stop on his Caucasus trip. “But this role is outside the EU. France does not see Turkey in the EU.”
Sarkozy, who has said he wants Turkey to be given special partnership status with the EU rather than full membership, is regarded by many Turks as the embodiment of European prejudice towards a Muslim country. The French leader, who seeks to boost his ratings before an April presidential election, said Turkey was “successful,” apparently in reference to its growing activism in the region. “But my thoughts on Turkey's EU membership have not changed and there is no reason why they should change,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying.
During his visit to Armenia, Sarkozy also urged Turkey to recognize the 1915 killings of Armenians as genocide, threatening to pass a law in France that would make denying this a crime. “The Armenian genocide is a historical reality. Collective denial is even worse than individual denial,” Sarkozy told reporters. “Turkey, which is a great country, would honor itself to revisit its history like other great countries in the world have done.”
Turkey, in response, said France should confront its colonial past before giving lessons to others on how to face history. “Those who will not be able to face their own history for having carried out colonialism for centuries, for treating foreigners as second-class people, do not have the right to teach Turkey a history lesson or call for Turkey to face its history,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters on Friday.