The statement from Hollande’s office followed an announcement from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last week that all sanctions imposed against France in the past in protest of its “Armenian genocide” policy had been lifted after the new French administration signaled abandoning plans first drafted by the previous administration to pass a law criminalizing the denial of genocide claims that 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered in a systematic genocide campaign by the Ottoman Empire.
“As a result of the few difficulties which we have experienced in the past, Turkey took a series of measures against France, but I’d like to announce that these measures have been completely removed,” Davutoğlu said at a joint news conference with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, in Paris on Thursday.
Fabius then signaled that the French government will not resurrect the law, which was nullified by the country’s top court on the grounds that it was against free speech, saying that his government is unlikely to do what the previous government did given that the law was dismissed by the Constitutional Council.
But Hollande has contacted a French Armenian group, the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF), and explained to them that he will propose a similar law, according to a statement from the group on Saturday. “Hollande has again expressed his willingness to propose a bill designed to curb the denial of the Armenian genocide, as he had said during his campaign and even before,” said the group, adding that Hollande contacted CCAF to clarify his position after confusion over Fabius’ statements.
Hollande’s office also confirmed the conversation, French news agency AFP reported. “The president expressed his commitments during the campaign. He will keep them. There is no change, although we must find a path, a road that allows for a text that is consistent with the constitution,” AFP quoted a statement from Elysee Palace as saying.
A Turkish diplomatic official who spoke to Today’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity on Sunday said that with Hollande’s election, Turkey was not expecting the debate between the two countries regarding the 1915 genocide claims to come to an end. “Turkey is aware of the relations between the Socialist Party and the Armenian lobby in France. Therefore, Turkey didn’t think that the Armenian claims in France would end with the election of Hollande,” said the official.
The Turkish official added that Turkey would follow the developments regarding the issue, adding that unless an official statement was made by Hollande regarding the new law, Turkey would only pay heed to the statements made by the French foreign minister.
Regarding Davutoğlu’s visit to France, the official said that it was a fruitful visit, adding that the initial political will came from France.
The law criminalizing denial of genocide claims was first promoted by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. Ankara canceled all economic, political and military meetings with Paris in December after France’s lower house of parliament voted in favor of the draft law. It was also passed in the Senate but was annulled by the Constitutional Council, which deemed it in contravention of the constitutional principle of freedom of speech.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman in a phone interview on Sunday, Mustafa Kutlay, an analyst at Ankara’s International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), said that if the “Armenian genocide” debate came onto Turkish-French agenda again, the relations between two countries would be seriously harmed. “Turkey’s relations with France had already deteriorated due to Sarkozy’s stance towards the Armenian genocide issue. Turkey was relying on Hollande, but if Hollande brings the same issue onto the agenda, Turkey would adopt a similar stance to the one it assumed towards Sarkozy. Turkey will raise its voice if the issue comes up again,” said Kutlay.
Turkish-French ties deteriorated sharply during Sarkozy’s rule, not only because of the genocide debate but also due to the former French leader’s outspoken opposition to Turkish membership in the EU. Thus, his election defeat in June opened the door for a new era between France and Turkey, with Ankara praising the new administration’s willingness to restore ties. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a “new page” in relations.
“Turkey was hopeful of Hollande because the newly elected French president was positive towards Turkey-EU relations. If Hollande brings up the genocide issue as a factor that would affect Turkey’s relations with the EU, then not only would Turkey’s relations with France be affected, but also its relations with the EU would be affected,” said Kutlay.