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France parliament puts off debate on Armenian 'genocide' bill

[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website] has postponed until at least October debate on a controversial bill [National Assembly background's] sponsored by the opposition Socialist Party [political party website; bill backgrounder, in French] that would make it a crime to deny that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians [ATI backgrounder] in Turkey was genocide. French Socialists had pushed for a bill that would impose fines similar to the €45,000 fine and possible five year jail sentence under French law on anyone denying that the Holocaust occurred. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the then-Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 in what Armenians refer to as genocide, but Turkey has insisted that the deaths numbered a few hundred thousand and do not constitute genocide [Turkish DC Embassy backgrounder]. Turkey on Monday threatened to impose trade sanctions [JURIST report] on France if the French parliament adopted the bill. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy [official profile] told the National Assembly Thursday that "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."

More than 400,000 people of Armenian descent reside in France, prompting allegations that the Socialists wanted the bill to win them votes ahead of next year's French presidential election. Other European Union countries and the European Parliament [text of 1987 resolution] have passed similar bills recognizing the Armenian massacre as genocide, and in 2005 the European Parliament endorsed an additional non-binding resolution [text] requiring Turkey to recognize the killings as genocide before Turkey can join the EU. BBC News has more.

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