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Turkish minister: “I deny the Armenian genocide, come arrest me”

by TodaysZaman.com. January 29, 2012.

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 04:51 AM UTC

Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bağış. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bağış. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

Turkey's EU affairs minister has challenged France's controversial genocide-denial bill in Switzerland, saying such efforts have no chance of survival.

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış told reporters in Zurich on Sunday that a bill which was recently been approved by the French Senate and which makes it a crime to deny the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 in Anatolia constitute a genocide is null and void for Turkey, adding that “we believe there are more sane people in France than insane ones.”

The French Parliament approved the bill last Monday, complicating an already delicate relationship with Turkey. French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who personally supported the bill -- plans to sign the measure into law within the required 15-day period after the bill's passage on Monday.

Turkey, which sees the allegations of genocide as a threat to its national honor, has already suspended military, economic and political ties with Paris and briefly recalled its ambassador last month when the lower house of French Parliament approved the same bill.

In France the bill is part of a tradition of legislation in some European countries, born of the agonies of the Holocaust, that criminalizes the denial of genocide. Denying the Holocaust is already a punishable crime in France.

Armenians claim that the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians as the Ottoman Empire broke up was the 20th century's first genocide, and several European countries have recognized the massacres as such. Switzerland has convicted people of racism for denying the genocide.

But Turkey asserts that there was no systematic campaign to kill Armenians and that many Turks also died during the chaotic disintegration of the empire. It also argues the death toll is inflated.

“We are today in Switzerland and I am saying the 1915 incidents were not a genocide. Let them come and arrest me,” Bağış stated.

Switzerland has a penal code article that punishes acts of racism, including public denial of genocides, established against a backdrop of right-wing attacks targeting asylum seekers in the country two decades ago. Swiss authorities say the measure is not similar to French genocide law in many ways and that it is fundamental to fighting xenophobia in the country.

Bağış said efforts like these have no chance of survival and that these laws are nothing but a piece of paper.

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