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Hugh Schofield reports from Paris
"The French Government has disavowed the bill"
 real 28k

The BBC's Chris Morris in Ankara
"The recall of the ambassador is likely to be only the Turkish Government's first step"
 real 28k

Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 14:00 GMT
Turkish fury at French genocide vote
Armenian survivors mark 85th anniversary
Armenians say millions were killed
Turkey has recalled its ambassador to France for consultations following a vote by the French National Assembly to recognise the killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

"The bill, which has greatly disappointed our nation, will cause serious and lasting harm to Turco-French relations and could lead to a serious crisis in our ties," said State Minister Rustu Kazim Yucelen.

He told a news conference the French parliament had "made a mistake in the face of history" in passing the bill, promoted by the Armenian diaspora.

He said economic ties with France would be damaged, and that the bill would also have consequences for regional peace - a reference to Turkey's neighbour Armenia.

Applause

Armenia's border with Turkey remains closed as a result of its unresolved conflict with Turkey's ally, Azerbaijan, over the territory of Nagorny Karabakh.

France provides one of the three co-chairmen of the Minsk Group of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which leads international attempts to resolve the conflict.

There was applause from the public gallery of the National Assembly when the 50 or so French deputies attending the morning session unanimously approved the controversial bill.

Successive speakers in the debate had stressed that the purpose of the law - which states baldly that France publicly recognises the Armenian genocide of 1915 - was not to pass judgement or to antagonise modern-day Turkey.

The vote went ahead despite advance warnings 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, to warn of the possible damage to relations.

A similar piece of legislation was withdrawn from the US House of Representatives last year after Turkey said diplomatic and commercial ties with the United States would be badly damaged.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 having greater implications, coming as Turkey applies for membership of the European Union.

Dominic Moisi, Deputy Director of the French Institute for International Relations, told BBC News Online that forthcoming municipal elections in France could have prompted the resolution, as the several hundred thousand Armenians living in France could make a difference to the result.

He also said that the vote came 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

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."

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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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