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French National Assembly passes Armenian genocide bill

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:24 PM EST, Thu December 22, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Erdogan says Turkey is reviewing ties with France
  • Turkish PM Erdogan threatens sanctions if the bill becomes law
  • The genocide issue regularly comes up in the U.S. Congress
  • The French Senate must vote on the measure now

Paris (CNN) -- Turkey is fuming over French legislation that would criminalize any public denial of what the bill calls the Armenian genocide last century in Ottoman Turkey.

"We are reviewing our relations with France," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the French National Assembly passed the so-called Armenian genocide bill. "We will take our measures phase by phase depending on France's behavior from now on.

Erdogan said Turkey is recalling its Paris ambassador for consultations to Ankara, is canceling bilateral visits, and won't cooperate with France in joint projects within the European Union.

"We are stopping all kinds of political consultations with France. We are canceling bilateral military activities and joint exercises from now on. We are canceling the permission granted annually for all military overflights, landings and take-offs. We are starting permission process for every military flight individually. From today on, we are rejecting the permission requests of military ships to visit ports. We will not attend and held the bilateral Turkey-France joint economic and trade partnership committee meeting that was planned for January 2012 under the co-chairmanship of the economy ministers of the two countries," Erdogan said.

"I am underlining this. This is the first phase."

The bill -- applauded by Armenians -- must now be voted on by the country's senate. Erdogan said he hopes the French Senate will vote down the bill.

"New measures will come to the agenda depending on the progress of the bill in France and we will apply them with determination without any hesitation."

Armenian groups and many scholars argue that starting in 1915, Turks committed genocide, when more than a million ethnic Armenians were massacred in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.

But modern-day Turkey officially denies that a genocide took place, arguing instead that hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians and Muslim Turks died in intercommunal violence around the bloody battlefields of World War I.

The genocide debate is an annual source of tension between Turkey and the United States, two NATO military allies.

The White House annually beats back efforts in Congress to pass a resolution which would formally recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide.

"The issue should be researched not by politicians, but by historians," Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told Turkish lawmakers Thursday that Turkey is a friend and ally of France and strives to maintain a dialogue.

Armenia's foreign minister, Edward Nalbandian, hailed the move, saying France "reconfirmed its high place of being the cradle of human rights and once again proved its commitment to universal human values."

"The French people showed that human rights are highest value, and today by adopting this bill," he said, indicating that crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations and deserve condemnation.

According to official Turkish statistics, the volume of trade between Turkey and France from January to the end of October this year was more than $13.5 billion.

CNN's Yesim Comert and Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report

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