Turkey maintains France sanctions despite new ruling on genocide bill

March 05, 2012, Monday/ 21:34:00

Turkey has decided to maintain the sanctions it imposed on France after the nation's assembly endorsed a bill making it a crime to deny that World War I-era mass killings of Armenians constituted a genocide, a government spokesman said on Monday.

Bülent Arınç, who is also deputy prime minister, told reporters following a Cabinet meeting on Monday that the controversial French bill on the “Armenian genocide” was brought up at the meeting. He welcomed the ruling of the French Constitutional Council, which last week ruled that the bill is “unconstitutional” and violates freedom of speech.

Shortly after the ruling was announced, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the Cabinet would meet to consider whether to restart economic, political and military contacts with France, which were all frozen after French Parliament passed the law on Jan. 23. Turkish officials argued that France's center-right government had supported the law to secure the votes of some 500,000 Armenians living in France. Ankara denounced the bill as an attack on freedom of expression.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked his government last Tuesday to draft a new version of the genocide-denial law after it was struck down as unconstitutional. “The President of the Republic considers that [genocide] denial is intolerable and must therefore be punished,” his office wrote in a statement.

“He has asked the government to prepare a new draft taking into account the decision of the Constitutional Council,” the statement added.

Arınç downplayed Sarkozy's second attempt to bring a modified version of the genocide-denial bill to the French Parliament, saying the French assembly will go to recess on Tuesday before campaigning for presidential elections, which are slated for April, starts. Arınç added that Davutoğlu urged Cabinet members during the meeting that previously announced sanctions and measures taken against France must continue.