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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 11:56 GMT
French parliament backs 'genocide' bill
Armenian survivors mark 85th anniversary
Armenians say millions were killed
The French parliament has passed a bill recognising as genocide the killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

The vote went ahead despite a warning from Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit that relations with France were on the verge of a serious crisis over the issue.

In one last effort to sway French political opinion, Mr Ecevit summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday, warning "the deep and longstanding relationship between Turkey and France, to which we attribute great importance, will suffer great and durable harm from the adoption of this bill".

But the bill - which does not explicitly blame the Turks for the massacres - was adopted in a unanimous vote by the French Assembly.

A similar piece of legislation was withdrawn from the US House of Representatives last year after Turkey said diplomatic and commercial ties with the United States would be badly damaged.

EU candidacy

The French Assembly has previously passed similar resolutions, but this one is seen as being more solemn and having greater implications - coming as Turkey applies for membership of the European Union.

"The action of the French parliament will not make easier the attempt by Turkey to become a full member of the EU," Dominic Moisi Deputy Director of the French Institute for International Relations told BBC News Online.

Several hundred thousand Armenians live in France and Mr Moisi says the Armenian community could make a marginal difference in upcoming municipal elections there, perhaps prompting the resolution.

He also said that the vote comes at a time of stocktaking in France. Similar acts of remembrance have taken place for the Jews killed in the Holocaust and for Algerians who died in the war of independence.

Conflicting view

There is no more sensitive issue in Turkey than what really happened to the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire nearly 90 years ago.

Armenians say 1.5 million people died in massacres and mass deportations in the last days of the Ottoman empire.

But Turkey says about 300,000 Armenians were killed in what it says was a revolt against the authorities, and that people died on both sides.

The Turkish Government says it wants to leave the issue to the historians, although Turkey has been wary of giving many researchers unimpeded access to the Ottoman archives.

But Turkey's Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan said on Wednesday that "this headache will not go away unless Turkey and Armenia enters a direct dialogue on the allegations [of genocide]."

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | Media reports
French vote recognises 'Armenian genocide'
23 Sep 00 | Media reports
Turkey angry at US Armenian genocide move
04 Oct 00 | Europe
Turkey scraps US visit
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