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The BBC's Chris Morris in Istanbul
"Turkey seems determined to extract its revenge"
 real 28k

Saturday, 3 February, 2001, 19:07 GMT
Turkey steps up anti-French campaign
Survivors meeting on the 85th anniversary of the alleged genocide, New York
Armenian survivors gathered in New York last year
Turkey has barred a French firm from bidding for a lucrative airports contract in a continuing campaign of economic sanctions against Paris.

Ankara has been fuming at France since the French parliament recognise the mass killing of Armenians during the First World War as genocide.

French Armenians
French Armenians celebrate the French parliament vote
Turkey recalled its ambassador from Paris in January, and earlier this week cancelled a highway tender for which French companies were planning to bid.

Saturday's announcement that the French electronics firm Thales would not be allowed to bid for a contract to upgrade radars at Istanbul and Ankara airports comes despite a European Union warning to Turkey over its previous sanctions.

On Friday, the European Commission warned Turkey that it was investigating the legality of its campaign against France.

Ecevit's warning

Even Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit warned his nation not to overreact.

"Let's not hurt ourselves by hurting France," he said. "Let's not trample on international rules".

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit
Mr Ecevit cautioned against going too far
Turkey is eager to join the EU.

Relations have become strained between France and Turkey - which are large trading partners - since France passed a bill saying that the Turkish Ottoman Empire had committed genocide in 1915.

"The bill, which has greatly disappointed our nation, will cause serious and lasting harm to Turco-French relations", Turkish State Minister Rutsu Kazim Yucelen said in January.

Contested history

Armenians say that the Ottoman Empire - of which Turkey is the successor - slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century.

Turkey has always fiercely denied that claim, saying that perhaps 300,000 Armenians were killed when they revolted against the authorities.

Turkey has cancelled a number of projects with actual or potential French involvement since the French passed the genocide bill:

  • a $200 million contract with the French company Alcatel for a spy satellite;

  • a $1.5 billion tender to build a highway and either bridge or undersea tunnel in northwest Turkey;

  • barring Thales - formerly known as Thomson CSF - from bidding for the airport radar contract, potentially worth $35 million.
Turkey - an important regional power and Western ally - has succeeded in keeping the genocide debate on the sidelines in a number of countries, including the US and UK.

French President Jacques Chirac
The French do not appear intimidated
The Clinton Administration opposed a US House of Representatives resolution on the issue, and there was no official mention of the Armenians in the UK's first Holocaust Memorial Day, held at the end of January.

But France is not backing down. Armenian President Robert Kocharian is to pay an official visit to France later this month in a further sign of growing political contacts between the two countries.

And in Iran, the parliament is due to consider a bill prepared by two ethnic Armenian MPs, which would formally recognise the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide.

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See also:

02 Feb 01 | Europe
Turkey: Angry man of Europe
08 Nov 00 | Media reports
French vote recognises 'Armenian genocide'
04 Oct 00 | Europe
Turkey scraps US visit
23 Sep 00 | Media reports
Turkey angry at US Armenian genocide move
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