ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey warned France on Friday their political and economic relations would suffer grave consequences if the French parliament passed a draft law making it illegal to deny the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was genocide.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a vocal critic of Turkey's long-standing, but slow-moving bid to join the European Union, told Turkey in October that unless it recognized the killings as genocide, France would consider making denial a crime.
The draft law, put forward by a deputy from Sarkozy's party, is due to go before parliament next week and proposes a one-year prison sentence and 45,000 euro fine for denying the killings constitute genocide.
"This proposed law targets and is hostile to the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish nation and the Turkish community living in France," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wrote in a letter to Sarkozy.
"I want to state clearly that such steps will have grave consequences for future relations between Turkey and France in political, economic, cultural and all areas and the responsibility will rest with those behind this initiative," said the letter quoted by the state-run Anatolian news agency.
Armenia, backed by many historians and parliaments, says some 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War One in a deliberate policy of genocide by the Ottoman Empire.
Ankara denies the killings constitute genocide and says many Muslim Turks and Kurds were also put to death as Russian troops invaded eastern Anatolia, often aided by Armenian militias.
"Turkish-French relations should not be held captive by the demands of third parties," Erdogan said. "This is a sensitive, serious subject."
Erdogan said common sense should come before political calculations, a hint the draft law was aimed at securing the support of 500,000 French voters of Armenian descent in elections due in five months time.
Turkey has increasingly flexed its rising economic and political muscle on the world stage and in the Middle East as its economy continues to show strong growth while western Europe suffers a financial crisis.
(Writing by Jon Hemming; editing by Philippa Fletcher)