Turkey: Relations With France Set to Plummet After Passing of Genocide Bill
Despite warnings from Ankara that such a move would fundamentally undermine Turkish-French relations, France's Senate today passed a bill that would criminalize the denial of any genocide, including the 1915 mass extermination of Armenians by the Ottoman state. The law, which could lead to a punishment of a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 Euros ($57,000), was also passed about a month ago by the parliament's lower house.Ankara had already taken action in response to the lower house's passing of the bill, recalling its ambassador to France for a time and suspending military and some economic cooperation with France. But Turkish officials have warned that a successful vote in the Senate, which now only needs to be signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy to become law, will lead to "permanent" sanctions, which will be introduced in the coming days. Although Sarkozy sent a letter a few days ago to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip that said the bill does not target a particular country and which urged Turkey to respond with moderation, it is doubtful Ankara will be in the mood for that. Writes analyst Barcin Yinanc in the Hurriyet Daily News:
The government is inclined to see this initiative as a hostile act towards Turkey. Ankara believes Turkey has become an expandable country in the eyes of Sarkozy. “We are not going to let France bully Turkey like that,” a high level foreign ministry official told me. His rhetoric reminded me of the atmosphere that followed the flotilla crisis with Israel.
In the case of Israel, in addition to sanctions, Turkey sought to confront Israel on international platforms, despite the legal risks of challenging the Gaza blockade.
As mentioned in a previous post, worsening diplomatic ties between Turkey and France will very likely have consequences that go beyond their bilateral relationship, seeping into each country's relations with the European Union and Nato. From that post:
"If the bill is adopted it is certain to have lasting and permanent damage to the relationship," [former Turkish diplomat and a scholar with Carnegie Europe Sinan] Ulgen says.
But Ulgen also warns that the bill's impact could spread far beyond the Turkish-French bilateral relationship. "This is also going to have impact on Turkey’s relationship with the European Union, at the time that there is an imminent crisis regarding Cyprus’s upcoming presidency of the EU in June. This will be unavoidable," he says. "The second implication is that this will also create tension within NATO and the NATO-EU relationship, particularly in areas where NATO and the EU will need to work together, such as in post-conflict zones, like Libya. That’s going to be very problematic," Ulgen adds.
While Ankara readies its next moves against France, it might also need to make plans for dealing with similar parliamentary moves by other countries. With the 100th commemoration of the 1915 events approaching and absent any viable mechanism for Turkey to resolve its differences with Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, it appears likely that today's vote in the French Senate is only a harbinger of things to come.