Hollande to stand by ban on Armenian genocide denial

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 09, 2012 10:11 AM
Hollande to stand by ban on Armenian genocide denial

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande will stand by a campaign pledge to make it illegal to deny that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was genocide, his office said, days after his foreign minister said the law had been abandoned.

Relations between Paris and Ankara had begun to thaw after a decision in February by France's constitutional court to strike down the genocide denial law as contrary to free speech.

Turkey had canceled all economic, political and military meetings with France in December after the French parliament voted in favor of the draft law.

At a joint news conference last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the law was unlikely to be resurrected and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hailed the opening of a warmer phase in relations with France.

But Hollande's office said on Monday the president would stand by his pledge, made to French Armenians while on the campaign trail ahead of his election in May.

"The position is very clear, the commitment will be met," a source at Hollande's office said.

Given the likelihood that the constitutional court would reject a new law, weekly newspaper JDD reported that Hollande's government was examining alternative legal means, including penalizing denial via official decree.

Armenia, backed by many historians, says about 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War One in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government.

Turkey says there was heavy loss of life on both sides during the fighting in which Armenian partisans supported invading Russian forces. The Ottoman Empire collapsed after the war. Successive Turkish governments and the vast majority of Turks feel the charge of genocide is an insult to their nation.

Turkey hopes Hollande's election might mean France is more open to its joining the European Union than under his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but has so far received no public support for its EU bid from Paris.

(Reporting By Julien Ponthus, writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Janet Lawrence)