YEREVAN (Reuters)—French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Oct. 7 warned Turkey that it might soon become illegal in France to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was genocide.
While in Armenia, his first stop on a visit to the Caucasus, Sarkozy called on Turkey to make a “gesture of reconciliation” and recognize the killings as genocide.
If it does not, he said, France “will consider it must go further to amend its legislation to penalize this denial.”
Sarkozy warned the measures could be adopted in “a very brief” time-frame, but said the comments were not an ultimatum.
The challenge by the president of France, which opposes Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, drew an angry rebuttal from Ankara the same day.
Turkey’s foreign minister said France should confront its colonial past before giving lessons to others. The French “do not have the right to teach Turkey a history lesson or call for Turkey to face its history,” Ahmet Davutoglu said at a news conference.
Sarkozy courted some 500,000 Armenian Diasporan votes in France and angered Turkey before his election in 2007 when he backed legislation that would prosecute those who denied the killings were genocide. The measure was rejected by the French Lower House of parliament.
While in Armenia, he also urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their dispute over Nagorno-Karabagh.
“The time has come to take the risk of peace,” Sarkozy said during a meeting with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian.
“Armenians, Azeris and Turks: You must choose this path. There is no other, it is the path of peace,” he said.
To watch the video of Sarkozy’s speech in Yerevan, click here.
Sarkozy is also set to visit energy-producing Azerbaijan and Georgia, a transit nation for Caspian Sea oil and gas headed for Europe, during his trip to the ex-Soviet states of the Caucasus.
(Report by Emmanuel Jarry; additional reporting by Ibon Villelabeitia; writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Andrew Roche)