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Armenian genocide row cools

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- A diplomatic row between Turkey and France over the fate of Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire appears to be cooling.

Turkey was outraged when a French parliamentary bill formally accused Ottoman Turks of genocide, saying that 1.5 million Armenians had been systematically massacred.

Ankara recalled its Paris ambassador as part of its response, but now Sonmez Koksal has returned to France after four months.

In January, Turkey said it was reviewing economic and political ties with France. It later cancelled hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts with several French companies. One of these included a $149 million deal to launch a spy satellite.

State Minister Rustu Kazim Yucelen accused the French National Assembly of making "a mistake in the face of history" after the bill was formerly passed. He claimed the vote would cause "great and lasting harm to relations" between Turkey and France.

He also suggested the French action could affect regional peace -- a reference to landlocked Armenia, which borders Turkey.

Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were killed as part of the Ottoman Empire's campaign to force them out of eastern Turkey between 1915 and 1923.

Turkey denies any part in genocide and says the death count is inflated. It argues that Armenians were killed or displaced as the Ottoman Empire tried to quell civil unrest. The Ottoman Empire became Turkey in 1923.

Before leaving Istanbul's Ataturk airport on Sunday, Koksal said he believed that Turkish-French relations had been harmed by the incident, but that "both sides will do their utmost to heal this wound."

France's National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, officially recognised the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians as an act of genocide in May, 1998.

But the French government and presidency opposed the vote, fearing it would upset Turkey.

The U.S. House shelved a similar resolution last year after U.S. President Bill Clinton warned that it could seriously damage ties with Turkey.

Turkey put intense pressure on the United States, including threatening not to renew the mandate for U.S. aircraft patrolling northern Iraq.



RELATED STORIES:
Greek genocide decree angers Turks
February 10, 2001
Turkish warning over 'genocide' claims
January 24, 2001
Turkey scraps French satellite deal
January 23, 2001
'Genocide' debate divides allies
January 24, 2001
Turkey takes action in genocide row
January 18, 2001
U.S. House shelves Armenia genocide bill
October 19, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Republic of Turkey
Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
French Foreign Ministry
Armenian Parliament
Armenian National Institute

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