[credit provider=”Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian”]
In a historic move, the French Senate has passed a bill making it illegal to deny that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1915 Turkey was genocide, the AP reports.Saskya Vandoorne, a CNN reporter in Paris, tweets that the final vote stood at 127 for, 86 against.
This controversial vote may cause repercussions.
Earlier on Monday, Turkey threatened to impose more, “permanent” sanctions on France if the bill was passed by the Senate (the upper house), Turkey’s foreign minister told France 24. The bill had already received the seal of approval by an overwhelming majority in the lower National Assembly last month.
In what is seen as an attempt to appease Ankara, the draft law outlaws public denial of any genocide recognised by the French state (and not just that of the Armenians), Reuters reports. The bill — which will punish denial with a year’s jail and a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($58,000) — was supported by both the ruling conservatives and the opposition socialists.
France officially recognised the Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, joining 20 other countries in doing so. According to Armenian historians, up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks during World War I, and their assets appropriated by Kemal Ataturk to establish the Turkish republic in 1923. Turkey claims only about 500,000 Armenians were killed in the context of the world war and an invasion by Russia, according to France 24.
The next step for the bill is for Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to ratify it before parliament is suspended in February. The bill can still be rejected by the country’s highest court if that body considers the text unconstitutional, according to Reuters.
Over the weekend, thousands of Turks from all over Europe protested the bill. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it impinged on freedom of expression. “This bill would punish me for having an opinion on an historical event. It goes against all European and French values of freedom of expression,” he told France 24.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has also accused France of committing its own genocide during the war in Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s.
While Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, may not be able to impose economic sanctions on France due to various accords and agreements, it will create diplomatic tension between the two NATO allies, especially given Turkey’s roles in the events unfolding in the Middle East. France-Turkey trade could also be impacted; according to CNN, it stands at $13.5 billion.
And Turkey does not make empty threats. When the genocide bill was passed by France’s lower house, Turkey briefly withdrew its Paris ambassador and froze military cooperation with France.