12 May 2006
A well-known French academic, Professor Pierre Nora, has strong criticism for the bill . advocating the imprisonment of those who deny the Armenian Holocaust.
The respected historian told Zaman his opinions on the bill to be discussed in the French National Parliament, and said, "The French parliament is being held captive by Armenian pressure groups." Nora pointed out that the approval of the bill will end the discussions on the Armenian genocide and added, "It is much easier to discuss the Armenian problem in Istanbul than it is in Paris."
Professor Nora, one of the French historians that composed a protest letter against the proposed Armenian genocide law, said, "The bill is a Socialist Party bid to win Armenian sympathy before the elections."
Nora also criticized the genocide law passed in 2001 and recalled the appearance of famous historian Bernard Lewis in court. He said these kinds of scandalous events should not be repeated.
The French historian said "I'm afraid this bill will pass" as he warned the Armenian problem will become impossible to discuss if it becomes a law. Nora asserted this attempt will open the door for other societies' to demand similar laws, and "the past will be imprisoned in law" as historians will be prevented from studying the most controversial historical events.
Nora noted they founded the "Association of Freedom for History" with a group of French academics after the French Parliament began to discuss laws on historical issues. He expressed that they want bills which determine what historians should teach and what should be studied to be withdrawn. The French historian maintains this kind of law is an attempt to form an official version of history and said: "France has become accustomed to making such laws. But a law restricting the freedom of historians does not suit a free country. They can only happen in the totalitarian countries where politicians talk about the official reality."
Bill, a political investment
"It is easier to discuss the Armenian question in Turkey than it is in Paris" said Nora, highlighting the conferences held for the Armenian issue in Turkey and the Turkish government's initiative to create a commission of historians, which he considers significant improvements. "The French Parliament is being taken hostage by Armenian oppression groups," said Nora, claiming that Armenian groups in France are extremely powerful and well-organized, and consequently influence politics. Nora expressed his disapproval of the “Genocide Law” issued in 2001, and qualified the judicial process of renowned historian Bernard Lewis for such a case as a "scandal".
Recalling the "guarantee" given to them by members of the parliament whom they met with after the law on communicating the good sides of colonialism, and the call from President Jacques Chirac to the Parliament to remain detached from historical subjects, Nora assessed PS' law proposal, which disregards all of the above, as "shocking." While historian claims that this was a political investment of Socialists, he said, "The only aim of the bill is to win the sympathies of Armenians for the upcoming elections."
Historians also strive to stop Armenian Bill
French politics are so hard to decipher that even the French themselves have a hard time making sense of it, said a historian in his reaction against French politicians, “The situation is so nonsensical that one can hardly ever take a serious look at it.”
Ratification of the proposed “genocide” bill will further complicate the Turkish march towards membership with the European Union (EU), said Nora, and pointed the finger at the incongruity of the PS’ effort, considering the party used to back the Turkish struggle for an EU membership.
It is not up to French historians to speak out about the Armenian genocide because they do not have an understanding of its specific conditions, said Nora, as he declined to express his own ideas over the Armenian issue, mentioning instead he is rather interested in the French politician's attitude towards the Armenian question.
Historians are also making an effort to stop the bill from being enacted, said Nora, adding that the news media will hear further statements from the historians in the near future.
As Nora stressed their ongoing efforts to keep in touch with parliamentarians, he quoted the parliamentary group leader of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) as saying in a telephone conversation that there is no guarantee for anything yet, but there will be every possible effort to stop it from happening. What is more striking is the fact that 300 Armenians gathered just outside the UMP headquarters during the parliamentary discussions over the Armenian genocide bill.
Nora is a member of the Academic Francaise, and is widely known as a French historian and intellectual.
By Ali Ihsan Aydin, Paris
May 12, 2006
The French Parliament is debating the new “Armenian genocide” bill presented by the Socialists. The bill envisages up to five-year prison sentences and fines of up to 40,000 euros for the “crime” of “denying the Armenian genocide.” There is always the possibility that it will not be passed by the Senate or approved by Chirac. However, the fact that such an attempt is being made has sufficed to make Turkey very indignant. Obviously our patience is wearing thin, not only in the face of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terror but also when dealing with the Armenian genocide allegations.
Meanwhile, France projects the image of a country that can hardly cope with its own problems. The symptoms of this “French disease” are quite obvious: Weak leadership, inability to make necessary reforms, a “democratie immunitaire” where the people take solace in its privileges now that it has lost its will to adapt itself to changing conditions, and purposeless and destructive acts of protest. Encouraged by these developments, Le Pen is trying to form a racist front prior to next year's presidential election. In the last election, he had competed with Chirac in the second round of balloting. Meanwhile, by trying to do whatever Le Pen has been advocating about immigrants, Sarkozy is aiming to prevent votes from shifting to Le Pen. A terrific policy, indeed!
A racist attitude that has surfaced in Europe all too often throughout its history --for hitherto obscure reasons and in not-yet-fully explained ways -- is now gaining ground and taking root once again in various parts of the continent, especially in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark and France. Meanwhile, Poland too is rapidly sliding towards racism.
We met with that phenomenon first when we applied for EU membership in 1987 and, initially, we could not make sense of it. Later, Turks were burned to death in Möln and Solingen. And the Turkish Foreign Ministry commissioned a study to a renowned center in the U.S. state of Virginia on the subject. It was on that occasion that we got to know historical prejudices against the Turks. This is why the late President Turgut Özal dwelt extensively on the West European racism in his book “Turkey in Europe” (1988), stressing that that could be the main obstacle on Turkey's path to EU membership.
Since I began writing articles for daily Radikal, I have tried to explain the perils of European racism. All that time, a number of liberal-minded writers in Turkey who are also ardent EU-lovers have found it difficult to believe the European civilization that they have glorified so much could be tainted by racism. They are sobering up only now.
Those countries -- such as France -- that accuse us of having committed genocide against the Armenians are themselves in the grip of that racism. They committed incredible atrocities against the Jews during the Holocaust and now they choose to believe that we did the same things to the Armenians. In other words, they “displace” onto us the racial hatred they once felt towards the Jews, surmising that we feel a similar hatred towards the Armenians (and, more recently, towards the Kurds).
Racism is a malignant type of prejudice, a mechanism that operates in the unconscious mind. For that reason, it is hard to detect and cure. “Turkey promotion programs” may not suffice to convince those prejudiced against us. Besides, the Islamist terrorism of the post-Sept. 11 period has added a new element to anti-Turkish racism. Thus, the racist person now has in his mind a “monolithic Muslim enemy,” an image that includes Turks as well.
The legal approach is the main path to adopt to fight this phenomenon. Fortunately, Gül and the Foreign Ministry are acting with this awareness.
In Massachusetts the Griswold case is continuing. Griswold wants his children to learn in school all views including the Turks' views on the Armenian genocide allegations. The country's strong tradition of freedom of expression is likely to overcome the “taboo” nature of the Armenian genocide allegations.
Meanwhile, a Swiss prosecutor has filed a case in Lausanne due to DoÄŸu Perinçek's anti-genocide statements, which have given Switzerland a jolt. By raising no objections to the opening of the case, Perinçek maintains his challenging stance. We hear that the court may take the path of delivering a judgment on whether the Armenians had been subjected to genocide. Then there will be the case involving Professor Yusuf HalaçoÄŸlu.
Mr. Dogu Perincek, as leader of Labour Party, made a press release on 5.5.05 challenging the Swiss Court District Attorney with following statement, interpreted from Turkish text(in my file). Perincek said ;
-"I did not put a defense document in the file of investigation, because the very same evening the district attorney had declared in front of all TV correspondents, that "there was no need for further investigation and that the FILE IS CLOSED".-
Mr, Perincek concluded that : "any person with minimal knowledge of law, knows that no document can be inserted in a file that was already closed".
Mr. Perincek will pursue the case in every country or court or circumstance without any withdrawl.
Reported for your information by Sukru S, Aya who happened to be there !
Turkey must not engage in a lobbying activity aimed at preventing French Parliament from passing the Armenian genocide bill. On the contrary, Turkey must encourage the passing of that bill. Since the law would amount to a violation of freedom of expression (Article 10), Turkey could initiate a case against France at the European Court of Human Rights as envisioned in Article 33 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Turkey must show that according to the Genocide Convention France may not pass a law and restrict freedom of expression in the absence of a genocide decision taken by a competent court.
Naturally, there is also the issue of going for adjudication or arbitration in a “Turkey vs. Armenia” kind of case. That would be the “mother of all cases,” indeed.
The West means conducting one's struggles on legal ground. And the time has come to be Western.
May 11, 2006
Even if Armenian Bill Passes, it is Difficult to Enact
The bill, criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide, will come before the French National Assembly tomorrow (on Thursday)...
The fate of the bill, prepared by the main opposition Socialist Party (PS), is bound to the attitude of members of Union for Populist Movement (UMP).
Armenian organizations declared a mobilization for convincing UMP members, most of who are against the bill.
The government, under the auspices of President Jacques Chirac, can drop the bill from agenda and slow the process down.
Such a move would make it difficult for the bill to be enacted even if it gets approval from parliament. The first step is a voting session that will be held tomorrow prior to an examination of the bill.
If a decision to discuss the bill emerges from the vote, all eyes will then be turned to the Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debre.
Debre, who is opposed to the bill, might extend the session and drop the bill from the agenda.
Zaman examined the process that the French Assembly will follow in discussing the bill.
It is reported that the bill's voting has started to transform into a "prestige struggle" between President Chirac, who is opposed to the bill, and UMP leader Nicholas Sarkozy who supports it.
The bill prepared by the main opposition Socialist Party (SP) needs to pass the commission in order to reach parliament.
Last month, the SP decided to bring the bill to parliament by using its "right to determine the agenda" given to French parties in proportion to the number of deputies.
The law proposals, which come to the parliament's agenda in this way, can reach the general assembly even if they are rejected in the commissions.
The Legal Affairs Commission had rejected the bill without examining its articles last week.
The bill will be discussed in the morning session when the PS is given priority and exercise their "right to determine the agenda".
The government will also reveal its opinion about the bill.
Then, the Assembly Speaker will hold a preliminary voting session since the bill was rejected by the Legal Affairs Commission before passing to a discussion of the bill.
In the voting session, deputies will be asked whether to "examine the agenda or not?"
If the essential majority cannot be achieved for a discussion of the bill, the proposal will be dropped from the agenda.
This voting is a critical threshold for the future of the bill.
The draft will be negotiated in case of an "investigation" result in the pre-election.
The voting is scheduled for the morning session because the "niche" right has a time limit.
The government will again have the right to determine the agenda in the afternoon session.
The draft would be off the agenda if the investigation or voting is delayed to the second session.
Sources, sharing their assessments with Zaman on the process, said the French Parliament has tapped the Speaker of the Parliament, Jean-Louis Debre, at this point.
Citing it is rare for the speaker of parliament to lead the general assembly, in which motions raised by the opposition are discussed; experts regard Debre's decision to lead the session tomorrow as "reasonable and strategic."
Debre, who has voiced his opposition of the draft, could in theory drop the bill by delaying the voting to the second session.
Noting Debre's sympathy for French President Jacques Chirac and his supportive view Turkey, sources predict there is a high probability of this.
The ballot of the majority of the current members of parliament is required for the proposal to be passed from the parliament.
There were nearly 30 representatives in the general assembly when the "genocide" law was voted in 2001. The high participation rate of the representatives will decrease the chance of the proposal to pass tomorrow.
Meanwhile, UMP has 364 members while PS has 150 in the 577-seat French Parliament.
Senate is also a Powerful Obstacle
If parliament passes the draft bill, the bill needs to wait for the senate's approval.
Parliamentary experts say the "niche" right in parliament will not be effective in the Senate and the bill will have to wait the same as any regular agenda item decided by the government.
It means the bill can only be discussed in the general assembly if the government approves it.
On the other hand, the bill must to be ratified by the Senate in the same way the parliament did.
A bill is sent to the parliament to be examined even when a proposal of a small amendment regarding the text is approved. This process can take some time.
The opposition Socialist Party (PS), which passed the so-called genocide bill using the support of the "niche" during its ruling period in 1998, faced the same Senate obstacle.
When the Senate did not put the bill suggesting "France openly recognizes the 1915 Armenian genocide" on the agenda, a group of senators presented a new proposal to the Senate with the same clause and requested an "urgent discussion."
The bill was approved by this method and sent to parliament again, however, it was not approved until 2001.
The president's approval is required to implement the bill if it is passed by the senate.
French President Jacques Chirac has the right to send the bill back to parliament.
Parliamentary sources and experts stress that the conditions in France now are much different than those in 2001 and the chance that the bill will become a law is not not high because of the government's opposition.
By Ali Ihsan Aydin
May 17, 2006
Non-Vote in France Disrupts the Parliament / "We cannot accept this bill" French Foreign Minister
French Draft Proposal Discussion Begins in Parliament
The draft proposal, which was submitted by the Socialist Party to parliament in France, and criminalizes denial of the Armenian genocide, will receive parliamentary discussion as a second topic at today’s sessions in the parliament.
In the statement that was earlier posted on the parliament web site, the draft proposal put forward by the Socialists had been announced to be handled as the third topic.
If discussion over the draft proposal remained after 1:30 pm, discussions would begin again after October next year, the beginning of a new legislation year.
Reportedly, treating the proposal as the second topic increases its chances of being voted on if its discussion in parliamentary ends before 1:30 pm local time.
By Anadolu News Agency, Paris
May 18, 2006
Ankara expresses hope for French rejection of Armenian bill
The Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday expressed its hope that the Armenian bill, which could seriously damage deep-rooted historical relations between Turkey and France, won't be approved by the French Parliament in today's crucial vote.
Speaking at a weekly press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Namik Tan expressed Turkey's satisfaction that the bill aiming to introduce prison terms and fines for those who question the Armenian genocide claims is opposed by both circles in the French government and among the public.
Turkey is holding its breath ahead of the French Parliament's crucial decision. Analysts have said that the bill will most probably be passed. While declining to publicly comment on announcements over the controversial issue in order not to attract criticism from the Armenian lobby, sources have told The New Anatolian that French President Jacques Chirac, the French Prime Ministry and the French Foreign Ministry are "silently lobbying" to convince ruling Union for Popular Movement (UMP) deputies not to vote in favor of the bill.
Although last Friday Chirac reportedly gave Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan assurances that France would take Turkish concerns into consideration during the debate over the bill, last Thursday the French socialists, who brought the bill to the Parliament floor, expressed their conviction that the bill would be approved.
Although ruling UMP deputies are known to oppose the Armenian bill, their turn-out for the vote is expected to be low. This, in turn, may pave the way for the bill's approval.
The Parliament's Law Commission has also rejected the controversial bill. During debates in the Law Commission last Wednesday, UMP deputies sharply criticized the bill. Alain Marsaud and Michel Piron, both from the UMP, are opposed to the bill. Piron stressed that trying to write history through laws would result in a discredited "official history." After the debates, the commission made no changes to the bill and rejected it by a majority.
However, under the French Parliament's bylaws, their decision doesn't have the power to block the debate from going through Parliament.
Govt has authority to block bill
Even if the Armenian bill is approved by Parliament, the French government has the authority to prevent the bill from reaching the Senate floor if they choose to block it.
For it to become law, it has to be approved by the Senate.
The bill introduces prison terms of up to one year and fines of up to 45,000 euros for those who question the Armenian genocide claims.
The two biggest opponents in the dispute over the validity of the Armenian genocide claims, the Turks and Armenians, have both organized protests near the French Parliament building during the debate of the controversial Armenian bill.
While the Turkish protesters will be led by the non-governmental organization (NGO) the Panfrican Congress of Young Patriots (COJEP) shouting slogans such as, "Don't limit independence" and "Let the truth come to light," Armenian groups will hold a counter-demonstration in support of the bill.
The New Anatolian / Ankara
Non-Vote in France Disrupts the Parliament
The final version of the draft bill that would criminalize denial of the Armenian “genocide”, submitted to the parliament by the Socialist Party without a prior vote at the general assembly session, troubled the French parliament today.
Deputies backing the draft bill stood applauding in protest of Parliament President Jean-Louis Debre’s decision to end the session.
Armenians also following the session from an observation balcony shouted “We want voting.” Upon this disruption parliament security employees intervened, and escorted the Armenian observers out of the session.
Parliament President Debre closed the session without voting for the draft bill, though the State Council President vowed to address the matter later.
On the other hand, French parliament sources report that a possible vote will not happen before the new legislation year.
By Anadolu News Agency, Paris
May 18, 2006
Genocide Bill, A Modern Inquisition
Olivier Corten, a professor at Belgium's ULB University Faculty of Law, believes bills that would criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide are a modern inquisition and said if the Armenian massacres are defined as genocide, we could say that Europe's colonial history is full of genocides.
Corten, one of the experts who informed the genocide committee at the Belgian Senate, said since he is not a historian he does now know about the 1915 incidents in detail, but he is against the bill.
He spoke to Zaman before discussion of the denial bill begins in France.
Speaking to Corten after he advised the Senate Commission not to accept such a bill, Corten told Zaman he is against the bill punishing those who deny the Armenian Genocide for two reasons.
Firstly, he stresses there is no court verdict about Armenian genocide, and secondly, there is not a retrospective principle in law.
If we expand the genocide expression to cover the pre-World War II period, many incidents could be called genocide, Corten said, Then, we should go back to 18th and 19th centuries, probably even to Roman Empire period.
Corten said it is difficult to adapt genocide laws to penal code and commented, You commit a crime, but at the time you commit the crime the consequences are not clear; namely, you commit a crime that is non-existing in law.
Belgium's Attitude is Unethical
Corten, pointing out Belgium is still trying to face its past with Congo, said it is unethical for Belgium to give lessons to Turkey before â€œcleaning the front side of its own house.
Corten does not call the acts Belgian King Leopold II committed in Congo a genocide, saying instead: This is not genocide since the massacres were held for money. In the same way, if there is no intention of categorically destroying, an event cannot be called genocide no matter how many people died.
Corten, indicating he uses very narrow criteria for the definition of genocide, said ethnic cleansing is not genocide; genocide can be used in reference to the massacres of the Jews and the massacres in Rwanda where the intention of exterminating a race was obvious:
Osman Koruturk, Paris, Turkey's ambassador to France
Ankara watches Paris, hopes common sense wins out - Controversial genocide bill fails in 1st round
‘I believe France will not let this virus infiltrate our relations,’ Prime Minister Erdoï¿½an says, while describing a bill that criminalizes denial of an alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire last century as a ‘virus’
A report coming from Paris yesterday on the rejection of a bill by a parliamentary commission has pleased Ankara, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoï¿½an expressing hope that common sense would eventually win out over the bill as Turkey has repeatedly warned that the bill's adoption could cause serious damage to bilateral relations between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters at the airport ahead of his departure for Vienna, where he will attend the three-day 4th European Union-Latin America/Caribbean Summit at the invitation of his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schuessel, Erdoï¿½an said he believed common sense would eventually win out as French-Turkish relations were not “ordinary bilateral relations.”
The prime minister described the bill criminalizing any denial of the alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire last century -- an allegation that is categorically denied by the Turkish Republic -- as a “virus.”
“I believe France will not let this virus infiltrate our relations,” Erdoï¿½an said, while also mentioning the fact that investments by French companies in Turkey top the list of foreign investment.
Referring to a meeting he held on Tuesday with a group of senior directors of French companies doing business in Turkey, Erdoï¿½an said the Turkish government and those directors shared a common view concerning the bill: that French-Turkish relations are so strong they cannot be victimized by such a bill.
Also yesterday, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau apparently felt the need to publicly express his country's “attentiveness” regarding Ankara's anger over the bill.
Erdogan said he would meet with French President Jacques Chirac in Vienna.
May 11, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Ankara remains steadfast over controversial bill, appreciates Paris’ sensitivity
‘It is our most sincere wish that the bill will not be adopted,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Tan says, while urging cool-headed reactions and noting that Turkey has been taking all kinds of precautions in order to prevent adoption of the bill
Both French diplomacy and at least some members of the French Parliament are apparently pursuing a path of common sense over a bill that, if adopted, Ankara has firmly warned would damage bilateral relations between the two countries.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau apparently felt the need to publicly express his country's “attentiveness” to Ankara's anger over the bill, which criminalizes any denial of the alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire last century -- an allegation that is categorically denied by the Turkish Republic.
“We are very attentive to the Turkish authorities' reactions on this subject,” Simonneau was quoted as saying by The Associated Press yesterday in Paris on the same day a group of Turkish parliamentarians were holding talks in the French capital with their French counterparts in an effort to convince them that the bill would not only harm ties between the two NATO allies but would also cast a shadow on France's image, as the country has widely been described as the cradle of freedom of speech and human rights.
The French bill was proposed by the opposition socialists and submitted to the French Parliament. It is similar to a law making it a crime in France to deny the Holocaust of World War II.
Also yesterday, a parliamentary commission that was scheduled to discuss the bill, the first reading before parliament of which is to take place on May 18, declined to hold a debate on the content of the bill after heated discussion among members of the commission.
Alain Marsaud of the ruling French Union for Popular Movement (UMP), the rapporteur for the Commission on Laws, reportedly argued that “issues concerning historical facts are for historians,” and a majority of commission members decided not to even discuss the bill.
The bill was proposed by members of the opposition Socialist Party (PS). Despite the UMP's strong opposition to the bill, the possibility of adoption still seems high, according to reports from Paris.
On Monday the Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey's Ambassador in Paris Osman Korutürk had been recalled to Ankara for “a short time” for consultations over “baseless allegations” made about the alleged Armenian genocide.
‘Nobody wants to trouble relations'
Ankara has so far refrained from referring to the possibility of implementing any economic boycott or sanctions against France, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Namï¿½k Tan yesterday expressing hope that the bill would not be adopted.
The French administration has been acting with “sensitivity,” concerning the bill, Tan said, while noting during a weekly press conference that cool-headed reactions were what was needed during this process.
“It is our most sincere wish that the bill will not be adopted. Since there is an environment in which our relations -- to which we attribute high importance and which have a deep historical background -- could improve even further, creating trouble [in this environment] should be nobody's wish,” Tan said.
Turkey has been taking all kinds of precautions to prevent adoption of the bill, the spokesman also noted without elaborating on those precautions.
In 2001, Turkey used economic leverage to punish France for its stance on this issue and canceled millions of dollars worth of defense deals with French companies after lawmakers in France recognized the killings of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoï¿½an personally contacted a group of senior directors of French companies doing business in Turkey and reportedly told the assembled company representatives in Ankara that he wanted them to pressure the French government not to enact it.
The recalling of the ambassador was a strong statement by Turkey, which faces an uphill battle to win over the French public in hopes of gaining eventual entrance to the European Union.
Turkish intellectuals urge France not to strengthen monologues:
The bill sparked reaction from not only the Turkish government but also opposition parties and intellectuals. Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputies Onur Öymen and Gülsün Bilgehan Toker were lobbying in Paris together with two associates from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mehmet Dülger and Musa Sï¿½vacï¿½oï¿½lu. They met with senior French legislators from the ruling right and opposition left.
Öymen said that they “relayed the Turkish people's strong reaction to our French colleagues” and warned that there were calls for a boycott of French goods in Turkey and that Turkish-French relations would be severely harmed if the bill is passed.
Nine intellectuals from Turkey who are all known to be against the official stance regarding the Armenian issue yesterday expressed their opposition to the bill via a joint declaration published in yesterday's edition of leading French daily Liberation.
“We need to overcome Turks and Armenians coming up against each other in an unproductive way, and we need to turn this into a humanitarian dialogue and common history by mutually relaying the two different memories to each other. We can reach this goal only by freedom of speech and debate and by free movement of all knowledge. Likewise the fight against crimes committed against humanity, freedom of speech is also a universal principle,” said the declaration signed by Ahmet ï¿½nsel, Baskï¿½n Oran, Elif ï¿½afak, Etyen Mahçupyan, Halil Berktay, Hrant Dink, Murat Belge, Müge Göçek and Ragï¿½p Zarakolu.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Controversial genocide bill fails in 1st round
A French Parliament sub-commission yesterday rejected a controversial bill which aims to introduce imprisonment for questioning the Armenian genocide claims. But the bill is still going to be discussed at the general assembly next week.
During yesterday's debates in the Law Commission, ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) deputies harshly criticized the bill, drawn up by a group of socialist deputies. Alain Marsaud Lois and Michel Piron from the UMP are opposed to the bill and Piron stressed that trying to write history with laws would result in a discredited "official history."
After the debates, the commission made no changes to the bill and rejected it by a majority.
However, according to the legal procedures of the French Parliament, the bill is still going to be discussed at the general assembly next Thursday. The majority of ruling UMP deputies are opposed to the bill, but if they don't participate in next week's meeting, it's expected to be approved by the National Assembly. The UMP has announced that there will be no group decision on the issue.
To become law, the bill also has to be passed also by the Parliament's upper chamber, the Senate. French sources say that if the Senate doesn't approve the draft in a year, it will become null and void as there elections next year.
Ankara: Damaging relations in no one's interests
The socialist deputies' "genocide bill" has created a row between France and Turkey, with Ankara recalling its ambassador to France for discussions to show its uneasiness over the situation.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Namik Tan said yesterday that the French government is acting sensitively on the issue, adding that the issue requires a process in which calm is maintained.
"Turkey would like French deputies not to approve the bill," Tan said, "We believe that it's in no one's interests to cause uneasiness while we have great opportunities to further improve our deeply rooted relations."
Turks and Armenians are at odds over the genocide claims. The Armenian diaspora claims that 1.5 million of their people were killed in Ottoman Turkey around the time of World War I, and refer to the events as a "genocide."
Turkey, however, says there were mutual killings by Armenian and Muslim groups during civil unrest as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
The New Anatolian / Ankara with agencies
Total history and France's future
Late last night I finished a book by Emine Caykara that contains an interview of nearly 500 pages with Professor Halil Inalcik. In several parts of the interview, Inalcik, the doyen of Ottoman studies who used to teach me during my short academic career as well, asserted the importance of the concept of "total history."
Towards the end of the interview, Professor Inalcik points out a fundamental dilemma faced by historiography: While the natural sciences, such as mathematics, offer a kid of even the age of 12 the opportunity to show genius, the social sciences, first and foremost history, require long-term dedication as well as experience supported by fastidiousness. Without knowing the fundamental elements and marking points of history one would lose the focus. This, in turn, demands knowledge about each aspect of history or the notion of total history.
The concept of total history is the most significant contribution of the "Ecole des Annales" to modern-day historiography. Born of the well-known French scholarly journal "Annales d'Histoire Economique et Sociale," the Ecole des Annales was founded in 1929 by prominent French historians Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre. However, the most popular name among those from annales has been Fernand Braudel, the author of "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II."
Previously, traditional history was built around the acts and facts of the leading personalities of the time. The Annales school, in turn, proposed a shift in the historian's focus and a global vision of history, particularly emphasizing the medium- and long-term evolution of societies and civilizations. Its followers pioneered a new and stimulating approach to the study of historical structures over events. Committed to broadening the range of history, they incorporated the other humanities, ranging from economics and sociology to linguistics and geography, into historical study. Over time mentalities (attitudes) became their focus as well.
The influence of the Ecole des Annales soon spread well beyond the borders of France, and Turkish historians, too, were not immune to its rapidly growing attraction. It was first Omer Lutfi Barkan who applied annales principles to his works. He then was followed by Inalcik.
The Annales school is actually the world-renowned foundation on which modern-day French historiography is grounded. It is in this regard that French historians' outspoken opposition against political involvement in history and historic events over the last two years deserves particular appreciation. Nevertheless, the reason I've touched on it is not because I naively believe that praising motivated by a narrow opportunism will help strengthen the Turkish standpoint. It is rather related to my desire to conduct a little projection into France's future.
As some French themselves admit, France, once the worldwide leading promoter of universal values, is a rapidly decaying power in this new global era. Paradoxically, the political elite rather seem to be merely mourning this self-imposed isolation. What I am particularly wondering about, however, is whether this gradual transformation, or the "long duree" as Braudel described it, is simply the outcome of some French politicians' narrow-mindedness or lack of vision. It is, of course, the French people that will judge their politicians. However, I humbly need to warn them that if this judgment is late in coming, sooner or later they themselves won't be able to escape from the transformation that has affected their politicians.
As far as some French politicians' attitude towards the Armenian allegations is concerned, there remains nothing left to say except to assert what my dear professor, Halil Inalcik, used to repeat during his lectures: "Understanding is forgiving."
How otherwise will we Turks be able to tolerate certain French politicians, with their longings to be geniuses in the field of history at age 12?
11 May 2006
The Turkish-French dispute over a proposed French law to penalize those who say that Armenian "genocide" didn't occur dominated the front pages of yesterday's newspapers.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted French business executives investing in Turkey. During their meeting he warned that a bill brought to the French Parliament for debate by the Socialist Party which aims to punish those who deny the so-called Armenian genocide would wreak havoc with bilateral relations between Turkey and France if it is passed, reported Hurriyet. "We expect executives of French firms to resist the bill. It will seriously hamper freedom of thought and expression," added Erdogan.
Tension between Turkey and France over the claims of an Armenian genocide is rising, reported Vatan. France is uneasy that Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France (Osman Koruturk). French Ambassador to Turkey Paul Poudade said that it's in Turkey's interest to have good relations with France, an EU member. The contents of the Vatan article, entitled "French threat to Turkey," were later denied by the Embassy of France in Ankara.
Just like The New Anatolian, other Turkish newspapers also reported about an open letter from nine Turkish academics objecting to the bill. The joint declaration, published in French daily Liberation, was signed by Murat Belge, Halil Berktay, Elif Safak, Hrant Dink, Muge Gocek, Ahmet Insel, Etyen Mahcupyan, Baskin Oran and Ragip Zarakolu. The letter says, "The bill, which envisions the imprisonment of those who claim that so-called Armenian genocide was not committed, would harm the exchange of views as well as eliminate the chance for dialogue."
Meanwhile, an article in daily Turkiye said, "France, which is pointing its finger at Turkey, still has the blood of millions of Muslims and Jews on its hands. France tries to accuse Turkey using Armenia's aspirations and lies. It also says it is the job of historians to discuss the genocides committed in Algeria and Rwanda by France."
http://www.thenewanatolian.com/crossreader.phpIf in war time people are killed for the security of a region, this is not genocide according to me, but instead a war crime. Even if you apply current conditions of genocide, this situation does not constitute genocide.
Emir Kir Started the Discussion
Emphasizing his doubt that Belgium would pass the draft bill in its current form, in which a prison sentence and a hefty fine would be given to those found guilty of denying the so-called genocide, Corten believes that the discussion was started by Turkish origin minister, Emir Kir, only for domestic political reasons.
â€œIf this bill passes unchanged, it will be a surprise to me, said Corten, pointing out that thousands of Turkish Belgians and Turkish officials coming to Brussels for EU negotiations might be imprisoned if the bill becomes law.
Underlining that in the past Belgium had issued a similar problematic law to judge war criminals worldwide, which was later dissolved, Corten stated that Belgium make the same mistake again.
Belgian Minister Emir Kir was attacked when he used the term, so-called genocide during an interview. Some Belgian politicians in relation with the lobby called for Kir s resignation.
By Selcuk Gultasli, Brussels
May 18, 2006
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy "Turkey is a leading economic and trade partner... We cannot accept this bill " (for now!!!)
French MPs shelve 'genocide' vote..
The French parliament has postponed debate on a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 was "genocide".
Turkish officials and businesses had lobbied French MPs to shelve the bill, which relates to a thorny issue still plaguing Turkish-Armenian relations.
Turkey rejects Armenia's claim that the Ottoman Turks killed 1.5m Armenians.
The French Socialist opposition wanted a new law to impose fines in line with those for Holocaust deniers.
Anyone denying that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in World War II can be fined up to 39,064 euros (Â£26,500) and be jailed for five years in France.
Armenia says up to 1.5 million Armenians were deported and died at the hands of the Ottoman rulers in World War I. Turkey says a few hundred thousand died in a war which also left many Turks dead.
Ahead of the debate, Turkish MPs had been lobbying their French counterparts, warning of irreparable damage if the bill passed into law.
It was set to be a free vote for French MPs, but President Jacques Chirac said that passing the bill would be a mistake.
Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy agreed, telling the National Assembly: "The Armenian cause is just and should be defended and respected. But the bill you have submitted today would, if passed, be considered as an unfriendly gesture by a large majority of Turks, whether you want this or not."
As the session ran out of time for a vote to take place, there were reportedly angry scenes as MPs and Armenian groups in the public gallery shouted: "Vote! Vote!"
There are some 400,000 people of Armenian descent in France, and the Socialists have been accused of trying to win their favour ahead of next year's presidential election.
Some European Union countries have passed bills recognising the killings as genocide and the European Parliament has backed a non-binding resolution saying Turkey must recognise it as such before it can join the EU.
The French bill will now be shelved until October at the earliest.
French Parliament Shelves Vote On Armenian Genocide
Angry scenes broke out in the French National Assembly on Thursday after lawmakers were forced to call off a vote on a bill that would make it a punishable offence to deny the Armenian genocide.
Debate on the opposition bill -- which has sparked a diplomatic row between France and Turkey -- started late, and the time allocated for its discussion ran out before a vote could take place. Discussion of the controversial text will now be pushed back to October at the earliest, under the parliamentary calendar.
Shouts filled the assembly as the bill's supporters accused members of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of stalling debate. Dozens of lawmakers â€“ angrily yelling "Vote! Vote!" -- had to be evacuated from the building after the leader of the assembly declared the session closed.
Earlier Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy came out openly against the bill, which follows on from a 2001 French law officially recognizing the Turkish massacres of Armenians at the end of World War I as genocide. "If adopted, this text would be seen as an unfriendly gesture by the great majority of the Turkish people," he told lawmakers, warning its adoption would have "serious political consequences and weaken our position not only in Turkey but across the entire region."
"Turkey is a leading economic and trade partner... We cannot accept this bill," Douste-Blazy said.
By Emma Charlton, Agence France Presse
"We cannot accept this proposed law," Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy
Paris: The French government said yesterday it would not support a proposed Bill to punish anyone denying Armenian genocide claims because it would upset Turkey, the alleged perpetrator of the killings.
Turkish officials have warned France of "irreparable damage" to bilateral ties if Paris passes the law, presented in parliament by the opposition Socialists.
Ankara recalled its ambassador to France this month and a leading deputy there warned of a possible boycott of French goods.
But without the support of the ruling UMP party, the Bill is unlikely to ever become law.
Turkey denies claims that 1.5 million Armenians perished in a genocide committed by Ottoman forces during and immediately after World War One. Around 400,000 people of Armenian descent live in France, Europe's largest Armenian diaspora.
"We cannot accept this proposed law," Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told deputies during a debate on the Bill.
"The Armenian cause is just and should be defended and respected," he said. "But the Bill you have submitted today would, if passed, be considered as an unfriendly gesture by a large majority of Turks, whether you want this or not.
"That could have serious political consequences and weaken our influence, not only in Turkey but in the whole region." Turkish media say the Bill is an attempt by politicians to court the Armenian vote as France gears up for presidential elections in 2007.
Turkey says the Armenians who died after World War One were victims of partisan fighting that claimed even more Turkish lives as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
The Bill suffered a second blow yesterday when deputies had to cut short the debate for time reasons. The next time they can review it under the procedure used for this debate is next November, they said.
Groups of Armenians and Turks demonstrated outside the National Assembly as the debate was taking place.
Objections on French Bill Rise from EP
Reactions against the bill that would criminalize denial of the so-called Armenian genocide have begun to emerge from the European Parliament (EP) members, too.
EP members of different political groups speaking to Zaman criticized the French motion.
Graham Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats which is the EP’s third largest political group, termed the draft as “a wrong decision opposed to freedoms.”
Watson stressed that the proposal is both a wrong and freedom-restricting step.
Freedom of thought and expression is the basic value of Europe, Watson said. “These freedoms must not be restricted.”
The best way, according to the EP’s Liberal Group leader, to unveil the realities regarding the Armenian genocide is to set up a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians. Watson reminded this proposal was brought to the agenda by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Another Liberal Democrat in the EP, Andrew Duff, said the draft is not just “very ugly,” but it is also an attack against freedom of expression. “Those supporting the motion have a clear target: To damage Turkey.”
Co-Chairman of the European Union-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Commission Joost Lagendijk pointed out those responsible for the preparation of the motion fail to appreciate the value of the free discussion atmosphere that started in Turkey. “It is necessary to encourage discussion,” Lagendijk said, “but if the bill becomes law, it will definitely be misused by reform opponents in Turkey.”
European Parliamentary member for the Greens, Turkish-origin Cem Ozdemir, finding the French attitude “no different from the chauvinistic nationalists in Turkey,” said those who oppose Turkey’s accession to the European Union are behind the motion. “If France wants to heal the wounds of Armenians, let it support Turkey’s membership to EU. If the bill passes, it will give an advantage to those who do not want the Armenian problem solved.”
Turkish-born EP deputy Emine Bozkurt, who thinks the motion is “a real hypocrisy” asked, “The EU is making efforts for freedom of expression in Turkey on one hand, and France brings this motion to the agenda on the other. How will this contradiction be explained to the Turkish people?”
By Selcuk Gultasli, Brussels
May 11, 2006
France Split over Armenian Bill
French National Assembly President Jean-Louis Debre is opposed to the bill that would penalize those who deny the so-called Armenian genocide.
It is not the job of the parliament to record the history of other nations, Debre told Zaman.
Chairmen from both the ruling party and the opposition Socialist Part (PS) have opposed the bill prepared by the PS; and although it was rejected by the Regulations Commission Wednesday, the legislative proposal will be discussed at the General Assembly on May 18.
Debre said they continuously remind the parties involved that history cannot be written with laws. “It is just an offer for now,” he added.
Following PS Parliamentary Group Chairman Jean Marc Ayrault, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Parliamentary Group Chairman Bernard Accoyer also opposed the legislative bill. Focused on recent discussions over the colonialism law, Accoyer yesterday recalled a discussion held a few weeks ago that ended with the conclusion that no law should be passed on historical issues. However; the PS is again leaning in the same direction with this initiative, Accoyer criticized. They will nevertheless not endorse a group decision, and the UMP deputies will be free to vote as they see fit.
Jean Marc Ayrault, PS parliamentary group chairman, does not hide his concerns either. Ayrault warning the legislative offer will be “a source of chaos and difficulty,” stressed the offer came to the agenda as "a result of big pressure from the party." Ayrault told Zaman that the bill has divided the parliament as well as the party, and as the PS group chair he does not wish to further comment on the issue.
PS Secretary-General Francois Hollande maintained politicians have the right to speak on historical issues and supported the bill.
Hollande claimed the acceptance of the so-called genocide is a pre-condition for Turkey’s membership to the European Union. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported the bill has divided French politics and whether or not the bill will pass will depend on the number of deputies participating in the vote. Very few deputies had joined in the2001 vote where the parliament recognized the 1915 events as “Armenian genocide”.
Armenian bill process continues amid French Commission's rejection
The French National Assembly’s Regulatory Commission Wednesday rejected a bill proposed by socialist deputy Didier Migaud.
Assembly analysts say the Commission’s rejection of the bill criminalizing denial of the so-called Armenian genocide, means the actual rejection.
The draft law will be submitted to a parliamentary discussion on May 18, since the PS brought up the bill for discussion in parliament since it met “its limited number of rights” to set the parliamentary agenda, a permission that is granted in accordance with a party’s share of seats in parliament.
The parliamentary speaker will, however, ask for a preliminary vote prior to the parliamentary investigation into the bill.
If the majority votes against the parliamentary investigation, the bill will automatically be left off the parliamentary agenda.
Parliamentary approval of the bill will be followed by a Senate discussion.
If the bill is approved, denial of the so-called Armenian Genocide would result in a fine of €45,000 and up to five years imprisonment.
By Ali Ihsan Aydin, Paris
May 11, 2006
Turkish Delegation on French Bill: Objection Alone not Enough
A Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) delegation arrived in Paris Tuesday to meet with members of the French Parliament over the new legislative proposal to criminalize denial of the so-called Armenian genocide.
The Turkish delegation, made up of Parliamentary Foreign Affairs President Mahmet Dulger and parliamentarians Musa Sivacioglu, Onur Oymen, Gulsun Bilgehan Token, met President of the French National Parliament Jean-Louis Debre, leader of the People’s Movement Union (UMP) Bernard Accoyer, and PS Group Leader Jean Marc Ayroult.
French politicians asserted that they are opposed to the bill, officials reported.
Turkish parliamentary members then asked their French counterparts to persuade other groups as well.
Known for his anti-Turkish viewpoints, former Prime Minister and Parliamentary Foreign Affairs President Eduard Balladur said his group also opposes the bill.
Moreover, the Turkish delegation also met some French members of the parliament and Jacques Blanc, the Turkey-France Friendship Group Chair.
Communicating the Turkish people’s harsh criticism of the French proposal, the delegation highlighted that history was the subject area of historians.
As part of the latest developments, a declaration made by a group in Turkey consisting of journalists, authors, and academics, known for their controversial opinions on the so-called Armenian genocide, was published in the French Liberation newspaper.
By Zaman, Paris
May 11, 2006
May 18: Towards a Bad Turning Point!
Emir Kir as the first person of Turkish origin to rise to the position of minister in the Western Hemisphere represents a historic turning point for those who came to Europe as “the lowest class”. Kir, whose father came to Belgium as a mineworker, and thousands like him, are gradually climbing the political ladder in Europe. These people of Turkish origin in Germany and The Netherlands have made their mark in European politics in a way that even scares leftist politicians.
The “deep” Europe intends to stop Turkey’s membership march as quickly as possible and obstruct people of Turkish origin from gaining political positions. The Turks who came, as workers must remain workers!
It is necessary to find such a formula that will halt both developments, but in the meantime, it should be seen “politically correct”. Giving every member 71 veto rights, taking into consideration the European Union’s (EU) absorption capacity, inserting the privileged partnership formula in EU documents or the fact that Turks could permanently be deprived of the right of free movement, have failed to calm the “deep” Europe down. A shortcut is needed.
The Armenian “genocide” formula emerges from confused European minds. Rumors have been circulating at Brussels lobbies that France is whispering to other members that “a confession and apology” for the “genocide” should be made a prerequisite for Turkey’s admission into the EU. The adoption of such a decision by the European Parliament in fall is not quite convenient because it is not binding. The fact that France will debate the bill to punish those who deny the “genocide” on May 18 is perfectly logical from this viewpoint.
If the bill passes the French Parliament on May 18 and the approval process afterwards is completed successfully, it would have two main outcomes. Firstly, the “sustainability” of the already weak Turkey-EU relations will become gangrenous. Secondly, European Turks, in general, and politicians of Turkish origin blooming in Europe, in particular, will either remain silent or get into big trouble.
In the first case, it will be a big enigma how visits by Turkish officials to France will be realized. Let’s assume that Turkish authorities and diplomats will benefit from the shield of “immunity.” Then what will happen to Turkish intellectuals, journalists and academics? Most probably, they will all of a sudden face a consequence similar to the consequence David Irwing faced in Austria. Belgium emboldened by France will rapidly adopt a similar law currently pending at parliamentary commissions. It must be taken into account that the parliaments of other countries may pass similar bills as well.
The second and more serious consequence is the possibility of silencing the fledgling Turkish population in Europe. The furious Armenian Diaspora will start hunting for politicians with Turkish background and try to end their political careers with single-question interviews. What is worse is that passing these bills will threaten social peace. This is the very point European politicians do not see and do not want to see. Lyon Mayor’s statement, “I was not aware that this issue was so controversial,” when he saw Turks protesting the Armenian “genocide” monument, is crucial because it shows how ignorantly European politicians have been approaching the issue. What the German government and people have accepted is not accepted by the Turkish state and -- most importantly -- by the Turkish people.
Kir faces political lynching once in a month because he once used the expression “so-called genocide” in an interview. Many politicians of Turkish origin, even though they have not change their minds, are very careful not to mention the Armenian issue. In an environment where these bills are enacted, they will either risk imprisonment or keep their mouths shut up! What is targeted is that Ankara would say, “Enough is enough,” and would abandon the EU negotiation table. May 18 could go down in history as an extremely important date.
“What can be done?” Let’s tackle this subject next week!
Ankara hints at carrot-and-stick policy towards France
Despite refraining from expressing the possibility of implementing any economic boycott or sanctions against France, whose parliament is expected to vote on a bill criminalizing any denial of an alleged Armenian genocide, Ankara has apparently signaled a carrot-and-stick policy as the prime minister yesterday personally contacted the representatives of French companies based in Turkey.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoï¿½an held an almost a one-hour meeting yesterday at the Prime Ministry with a group of senior directors of French companies doing business in Turkey.
Erdoï¿½an expressed during the meeting that he hoped the group would be lobbying against the bill to be voted on later this month in the French Parliament and criminalizes any denial of the alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire last century, Yavuz Canevi, a well-known figure in the Turkish economy sector who was present at the meeting told reporters following the meeting.
Canevi is the chairman of the Turkish Economy Bank (TEB). In February 2005, 50 percent of TEB Financial Investments A.S. was transferred to a leading French bank, BNP Paribas that is also one of the main banks in Europe.
The bill in France, proposed by members of the opposition Socialist Party (PS), criminalizes any denial of an alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
On Monday, the Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey's Ambassador in Paris Osman Korutürk had been recalled to Ankara for “a short time” for consultations over “baseless allegations” made about the alleged Armenian genocide.
During yesterday's meeting at the Prime Ministry, Erdoï¿½an pointed out the fact that the bill has the first reading before parliament on May 18, Canevi said.
There are less than 10 days left until the first reading, and this is unfair, Erdoï¿½an told the group.
“The prime minister said ‘this issue is for historians',” Canevi quoted Erdoï¿½an as saying.
If approved, the bill would provide one year in prison and a 45,000 euro ($57,000) fine for any person who denies that the 1915-1917 massacres of Armenians were genocide.
If adopted, it will follow a 2001 French decision that infuriated Turkey by acknowledging that mass killings during World War I amounted to genocide.
Relations suffered a major blow when the French Parliament accepted the so-called genocide in 2001, and the bill penalizing its denial may spark a new crisis in ties if it is passed.
‘Embargo not on agenda yet'
French companies doing business in Turkey have already sent letters to French parliamentarians urging them not to adopt the bill, and copies of those letters have been handed over to Erdoï¿½an, Canevi said.
When asked whether Turkey might implement a kind of embargo against France: “There is no such thing on agenda yet. It is too early,” Canevi briefly replied. “We're all there for you,” Canevi quoted the directors group as telling the prime minister at the meeting.
Today, the same day when the French Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission is scheduled to discuss the bill, a group of Turkish parliamentarians will start a marathon three days of talks in the French capital concerning the bill.
Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings between 1915 and 1917 by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.
Turkey categorically rejects the claims, saying 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading Ottoman soil.
May 10, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Turkey cool-headed to France, for now
Ankara has so far refrained from explicitly expressing the possibility of economic boycott or sanctions against France, whose Parliament is expected to vote on a bill criminalizing any denial of an alleged Armenian genocide, but has apparently signaled a carrot-and-stick policy as the prime minister yesterday personally contacted representatives of French companies based in Turkey.
During an almost hour-long meeting at the Prime Ministry with a group of senior directors of French companies doing business in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoï¿½an reportedly said he hoped the group would be lobbying against the bill, which will be voted on later this month in the French Parliament. The bill criminalizes any denial of the alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire last century.
“We're all there for you,” Yavuz Canevi, a well-known figure of the Turkish economic sector who was present at the meeting, quoted the group of directors as saying to the prime minister.
May 10, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
413,000 Armenians Forced to Emigrate
The chair of the Turkish History Council, Professor Yusuf Halacoglu informed that the number of Armenians forced to relocate in 1915 was 413,000.
While claiming that these figures according to “The Secret Note Book of Talat Pasha” were exaggerated, Halacoglu noted that the information in the book published by the General Staff also confirmed his assessment.
“The number of Armenians sent to Syria was 413,000, a figure that I wrote in my book and that the General Staff confirmed. The figure of 924,000 is not the actual number that was sent, but was probably the planned number,” said Halacoglu.
The idea of forced emigration of Catholic and Protestant Armenians was abandoned and in some cities, children and women were not relocated.
Halacoglu noted that the information Murat Bardakci, a columnist for Hurriyet daily, took from the secret notebook of Talat Pasha, lacked authenticity and what he wrote about as history, was just a story.
Highlighting that the population of Ankara was 44,000 in 1914, Halacoglu continues: “According to Mr. Bardakci, the number of Armenians that emigrated from Ankara was 47,000 and the number who could not emigrate was 12,000. If you add these together it equals 60,000; therefore, refuting the accuracy of his quoted emigration figures. I think Mr. Bardakci simply wants to remain popular.”
Baskent University faculty member Professor Servet Mutlu said the notebook, which was supposedly written by Talat Pasha, might have been written by somebody else. The accuracy of information could be ascertained if the notebook describing the emigration was examined at chronology laboratories.
By Sezai Kalayci, Istanbul
April 27, 2006
Debre Drops the Motion, Armenians' New Target is November
The most important role played in the dropping of the motion to penalize those who deny the so-called Armenian genocide in France yesterday was undertaken by Parliamentary Speaker Jean Louis Debre, a close friend of President Jacques Chirac.
Though not customary, Debre took the decision of directing the session where the draft was discussed.
It is very rare for parliamentary speakers in France to chair the sessions where motions brought by the opposition are discussed.
Debre gave the deputies discussing the first item of the session the unlimited right to speak, which diminished the time remaining.
He twice allotted a break to ease the tensions that rose because of this.
In the statement he made after the session, Debre said, “We can write the history of neither France nor its relationships among other nations,” and repeated once again that he is against the bill.
Meanwhile, there was no consensus among the parties for the passing of the motion, as was the case in 2001.
The majority of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) opposed the motion, and opposing voices also rose from the Socialist Party (PS) that put forth the bill.
The PS must also use its next “right to determine the agenda” for the motion to reach the parliamentary agenda again, which would be possible only in November.
Officials from PS and Armenian associations cite the draft will come to the general assembly again in the fall.
That the draft bill is still on the agenda should not be considered a victory. Even the Armenian associations, the architects of the project, did not expect the bill to pass in the first attempt. We watched the session together with Alexis Govciyan, Chairman of the Coordination Council of the Armenian Organizations of France, who foresaw the delay of the bill until November.
The law suggesting “France openly recognizes 1915 Armenian Genocide” was enacted over four years, even with compromise by the parties.
Today’s bill that was prepared and presented by Socialist deputy Didier Migaud in 1998 was not on the senate’s agenda for a long time, though it was passed unanimously.
Upon these developments, a group of senators presented the bill as a new proposal to the senate and requested an urgent negotiation.
Thus, the bill passed by the senate was easily approved.
Armenians we interviewed are confident that the passage of the new bill will be more difficult.
The reactions of historians and division among the parties head the list of reasons. Their biggest gains stand to be the presidential and general elections.
By Ali Ihsan Aydin, Paris
May 19, 2006
Armenian Law in France Dropped for Now
The legislative bill penalizing those who deny the so-called Armenian genocide in France has been postponed indefinitely.
The motion discussed in yesterday’s morning session of the French Parliament was dropped as the allotted time ran out.
Parliamentary Speaker Jean-Louis Debre had to twice pause the tense session to reestablish order.
Deputies and Armenians supporting the motion accused Debre of extending other discussions deliberately to drop the motion.
Armenians angered by the result caused a commotion in the parliament’s audience gallery.
Foreign Minister Philippe Doust-Blazy, speaking on behalf of the government, objected to the motion and appealed to French deputies to not to inscribe history with laws.
The Socialist Party (PS), which made the legislative proposal, placed the genocide bill as a second item on the agenda although it had the right to arrange it anyway it wanted.
While talks on the first item on the agenda continued, some socialist parliamentarians reacted saying talks were extended deliberately.
Since the proposal would automatically fail if it were not voted at the first section where PS had the right to arrange the agenda, parliamentarians wanted to start the genocide proposal sooner.
President of the parliament Jean-Louis Debre, upset with the protests, reminded that it was not himself who formulated the agenda but the socialists.
When the socialist parliamentarians rebelled again, tension increased in the parliament.
Members of PS accused Debre of his attempts to fail the proposal since Tuesday.
Members of UMP, who support the proposal, said, “Do not fall into their trap, they want to deceive you”.
Upon the increase of the tension Debre gave two breaks.
Many parliamentarians, who wanted to discuss the first item on the agenda, did not make their speech to proceed to the genocide proposal.
It took an hour to proceed to the proposal, but Debre ended the section after a few talks because of the time constraint. Thus, the proposal was dropped out of the agenda.
PS Group Leader Jean Marc Ayroult held the government and Debre accountable for the cancellation of the bill.
Ayroult said UMP did its best to postpone the bill and accused UMD of playing small tricks to reach its goal.
Armenian Originated French politician Patrik Deveciyan, who was angry after the session, said the postponement of the bill is a result of the lobby activities Turkey launched in all areas.
The Armenians who came to the parliament to watch the session created chaos after the bill was postponed.
The crowd sang the French National Anthem and did not leave the building.
PS Secretary-General Francois Hollande approached them requesting them to remain calm.
The Armenians organized demonstrations near the parliament and protested the decision.
The Turks, on the other hand, chained themselves and taped their mouths. Some held banners in their hands saying “Do not restrict our freedom,” and “Do not prevent the realities from being revealed.”
French Government Opposes Genocide Bill
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, representing the government in the parliamentary session yesterday, said if the bill is enacted the French Parliament will have interfered in history and cited his opposition to the proposal.
The minister, who recalled the agreement on “leaving the history to the historians” invoked in the parliamentary discussion regarding the law of colonialism said, “The French Parliament is again attempting to interfere in written history.”
The foreign minister said enactment of the bill will harm long-standing Turkish-French affairs and the dialogue process between Turkey and Armenia.
Douste-Blazy reminded that more than 300000 Turkish people lived together with people of Armenian origins in France, and said the bill will affect “human relations.”
By Ali Ihsan Aydin
May 19, 2006
Turkish lobby in France finally makes itself heard
If it hadn't been for the attack on the Council of State, you would have seen the vote in the French National Parliament on the Armenian bill in yesterday's newspaper headlines.
While thousands of people were flooding the streets of Ankara on Thursday for the funeral, a vote of crucial importance was taking place in the French Parliament.
Just like everyone else, I was glued to the television for most of the day. I only remembered about the vote late in the afternoon.
A friend from France called and reminded me.
They told me the good news. The bill, which criminalized the denial of the Armenian genocide, had not been passed by the Parliament.
Technically, the earliest day the Parliament can reassess the bill is six months from now.
So what had happened?
According to a friend who had the opportunity to watch the proceedings in the French Parliament, Speaker Jean Louis Debre pursued an incredible strategy.
I should also note the fact that Debre is against the bill and says so at every opportunity.
There were two bills that were supposed to be discussed on Thursday.
The Armenian bill was the second one.
Due to Debre's successful maneuver, the discussions on the bill were only able to start at 12.15 p.m.
Some in the assembly protested the delay in the proceedings because the deadline for the session was 1.15 p.m.
The biggest surprise of the session was the sudden appearance of Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy in the assembly, where the 30 deputies present were discussing the bill.
Douste-Blazy asked for permission to speak and told the deputies that the bill went against French interests. "It's not up to politicians to judge history. Especially at a time when there is a real chance of dialogue between Turkey and Armenia, France's involvement would be very wrong."
Douste-Blazy is known as "Mr. Bluff" in France for the constant guff he makes. I can't stop myself from thinking that President Jacques Chirac had something to do with what Douste-Blazy said.
Due to Douste-Blazy's long speech, the session closed and deputies who supported the bill could not argue their cases. The debates on the bill were postponed for six months.
It would not be wrong to see what happened in the session as a maneuver by the Chirac administration to protect its 9 billion euro bilateral trade with Turkey.
However, one should also praise the contribution of the Turkish lobby.
This is exactly what Patrick Deveciyan, a UMP deputy and close advisor to French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, who supported the bill, says.
Turkish-French Trade Association Chairman Yves Marie Laouenan, who watched the session from start to finish, is one of the people I talked to the other day.
Laouenan says he saw Deveciyan among the crowd that gathered in front of the Parliament after the conclusion of the session.
According to Laouenan, Deveciyan told the crowd that was protesting the failure: "We were deceived. This is the achievement of the Turkish lobby in France; however, we will not let the matter close like this."
It appears we have finally started to learn the intricacies of lobbying activities.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Armenian diaspora slams French move to shelve bill
The French move to shelve a highly contentious bill that penalizes any denial of an alleged Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire has led to dismay and anger among the Armenian diaspora in France.
One of the major defenders of the alleged genocide bill, Patrick Deveciyan, a French parliamentarian of Armenian origin from the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), described the dropping of the bill from the French National Assembly's agenda as "disastrous."
Deveciyan claimed in an interview with France's daily Le Figaro that the French maneuver to delay the vote on the bill was a "comedy."
Representatives of Armenian associations in France also blasted the shelving of the bill and said it was scandalous, blaming the government and the parliament speaker for delaying the vote.
The Socialist Party, the architect of the bill, released a declaration condemning the French foreign minister, who had voiced opposition to the bill.
After heated debates between government representatives and opposition deputies pushing for the proposed bill drafted by the opposition Socialist Party, the National Assembly put off debate indefinitely when deputies had to cut the session short for reasons of time.
Shouts filled the assembly during the discussion as the bill's supporters accused members of the UMP of stalling debate and preventing the vote from taking place within the allotted time. Discussion of the bill will now be pushed back to October at the earliest on the French parliamentary calendar.
Leveling criticism at ruling and opposition French deputies whom he claimed had delayed the vote on the bill, Deveciyan said the attempts to delay the vote were a result of instructions and, without giving a name, criticized President Jacques Chirac.
The French government came out openly against the controversial bill, which follows a 2001 French law officially recognizing the incident during the World War I years as genocide.
The bill stipulates a prison term and a 45,000 euro ($57,000) fine for people who contest the so-called Armenian genocide.
"If adopted, this text would be seen as an unfriendly gesture by the great majority of the Turkish people," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told lawmakers during debates in the assembly.
The French politician warned that the bill's adoption would have "serious political consequences and weaken our position not only in Turkey but across the entire region."
He also said, "Turkey is a leading economic and trade partner. ... We cannot accept this bill."
Deveciyan said Douste-Blazy's citing of commercial relations between Turkey and France as an excuse to oppose the bill was "indecent."
Backed by Turkish business leaders and unions, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan appealed to France this month to block the contentious bill, warning of the threat to bilateral relations.
The foreign trade minister of France reportedly sent letters to deputies before the debates in the national assembly, saying that the French investments in Turkey would be at risk if the bill was adopted.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Armenian Genocide Bill Postponed; French Companies Relieved
After French lawmakers dropped the bill that would criminalize denial of the so-called Armenian Genocide, which nearly halted Paris-Ankara relations, French companies in Turkey are relieved.
Representatives of the companies noted that agreements worth $14 billion escaped great danger, and expressed their pleasure at the solution of the problem, even if only a temporary one. Les Echos, a leading economy newspaper in France, wrote that postponement of the bill provided a short respite, and added: â€œThe French business environment was taking the economic sanction threats of Turkey, especially of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, very seriously. This decision may also affect new investments. Almstom is among the companies vying for the tender of the Marmaray Project, a subway project planned to cost â‚¬815 million. With their recognition of the so-called Armenian Genocide, France attempted to pass another bill criminalizing the denial of the genocide. After the harsh reaction of Turkey, the bill was suspended despite pressure from the Armenian lobby in France.
Les Echos, underlining the commercial intensity between the two countries, cites a probable boycott of French products would result in major damage, and stresses that even just the thought caused alert among big French companies such as Alstom, Accor or Danone.
The newspaper commented â€œthe Armenian problem poisoned Turkish-French relationships previously, too and made reference to the so-called Armenian genocide the French Parliament confirmed in 2001. Les Echos, recalling the angered call for a boycott by Ankara, wrote â€œThe economic crisis Turkey went through at that time may have reduced the effect of the boycott, but the effects are real. The newspaper wrote the French company Thales was excluded from the 120-million-euro tender regarding the maintenance of F16s in 2001, and that French companies lost the 260 million euro agreement about the manufacturing and launching of satellites.
By Economy News Desk
May 20, 2006
Ankara: We Hope Bill will not be Brought up Again
Turkish officials in Ankara welcomed with cautious optimism the news that the French bill designed to criminalize denial of the s0-called Armenian genocide was â€œfor the time being dropped off the agenda.
A statement from the Foreign Ministry focused attention on the need to not bring up the bill for discussion a second time in the parliament. It also appealed for approval from the international community of a proposal from the Turkish government to â€œform a joint commission.
In Fridayâ€™s parliamentary discussions, the French government and French foreign minister had an oppositional stance to the bill, the statement read, â€œNow we expect to see that the bill will not be brought up for discussion a second time in the French National Parliament, and that a joint commission of Turkish and Armenian historians will be allowed to make use of all documents “archived or not when they are assigned for an exploration of the 1915 events, and that the international community, including France, will grant its approval of a proposal from the Turkish government to share the results with the whole world.
France was thrown into discussion over the bill that received opposition from French historians and public leaders, the statement said.
By Zaman, Ankara
May 20, 2006