Turkey threatens boycott over genocide bill

Alisdair Sandford Oct 12, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Domestic politics and international economics have run smack into each other in France. The lower house of the French parliament wants to make it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. About a million and a half Armenians were killed in what’s now Turkey during the First World War.

The bill’s still a long way from becoming law. But Turkey’s economic payback has already started.

From Paris, Alasdair Sandford reports.

ALASDAIR SANDFORD: If the bill becomes law, anyone who denies that Turkey was guilty of killing 1.5 million Armenians faces a year in jail and a fine of up to $56,000.

Turkey insists what happened wasn’t genocide but a partisan conflict. It’s threatened to boycott some $6 billion of French goods into the country.

The move by France’s socialists — not the government — has the support of half a million people in France of Armenian descent. They strongly oppose Turkish membership of the European Union.

But as these views from the streets of Paris suggest, the French are divided on whether a law is appropriate:

MAN: We are a country with human rights. If they want to join the European Union, they have to admit what happened in the past.

WOMAN: I think that France has to say what she thinks about it, but is it a good way? I don’t know.

French business would most likely be the first casualty of any economic backlash in Ankara. Five years ago when France passed a law recognizing the Armenian genocide, French firms such as Thomson and Alcatel found themselves excluded from contracts in Turkey.

Today French companies want to invest in about $20 billion worth of projects. They include a new nuclear power plant, bridges and new trains for Istanbul’s subway network.

But despite the Turkish government’s rhetoric, it knows that many of the 300 French companies operating there employ mainly Turks.

In Paris, I’m Alasdair Sandford for Marketplace.

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