Sarkozy urges Turkey to recognize Armenia 'genocide'
|Publisher||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty|
|Publication Date||7 October 2011|
|Cite as||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Sarkozy urges Turkey to recognize Armenia 'genocide', 7 October 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e9ea792c.html [accessed 27 December 2014]|
October 07, 2011
French President Nicolas Sarkozy
In a move that has irked Ankara, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged Turkey to recognize the World War I-era massacres of Armenians within the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Speaking to reporters in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on the second day of a visit there, Sarkozy said Turkey has had "enough [time] for reflection" since the mass killings began in 1915.
At the same time, Sarkozy said it was "not up to France to give an ultimatum to anyone."
The French president made the remarks on October 7 during a joint press conference with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, who responded by publicly thanking Sarkozy.
"We are grateful to France for officially recognizing as genocide and condemning by law the terrible tragedy that struck Armenian people in the beginning of last century," Sarkisian said.
Shortly after arriving in Yerevan on October 6, Sarkozy called upon Turkey to "revisit its history" over the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. He said collective denial by the Turkish state and by the people of Turkey was "unacceptable."
"If Turkey revisited its history and looked face-to-face at the shadows and the light, it would be sufficient to recognize the genocide. If Turkey does not do this, then without a doubt it will be necessary to go further," Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy also said that if Turkey does not make a "gesture of peace" and "step towards reconciliation" over the issue, he would consider proposing a law that would make it a crime to deny that the killings constituted genocide.
The French president said that he hopes Turkey would act on the issue before the end of his term in office in May 2012.
Turkey's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis rejected Sarkozy's call.
Speaking during a visit to Sarajevo, Bagis was quoted by the Anatolia news agency on October 7 as saying that Sarkozy would do better to concern himself with getting France out of its economic crisis than to get involved in historical debates over the Armenian question.
He also said France should confront its own colonial past before giving lessons to others on how to face history.
France, along with countries including Russia and Switzerland, has recognized the killings as genocide.
Sarkozy angered Turkey ahead of his election in 2007 when he supported a bill in France aimed at prosecuting those who refuse to recognize the massacres as genocide.
The French lower house of parliament later rejected the measure – a move that infuriated the Armenian diaspora in France, which is estimated to include about 500,000 people.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin died as victims of genocide during World War I within the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey rejects the "genocide" label. It contends that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian forces.
Sarkozy is winding up a tour of the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus. He is scheduled to travel to Azerbaijan's capital Baku before traveling on to Tbilisi where he is to deliver a speech alongside Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Written by Ron Synovitz in Prague with reporting by Ruzan Stepanian from RFE/RL's Armenian Service.