NEW: The Foreign Ministry slams 'personal attacks'
Turkey is incensed over the National Assembly bill
Erdogan brings up French activity last century in Algeria
Turkey’s leader accused France of “genocide” last century during the war in Algeria, a ratcheting up of rhetoric over controversial French legislation that would criminalize any public denial of what the bill calls the Armenian genocide last century in Ottoman Turkey.
“In Algeria, an estimated 15 percent of the population had been subjected to the massacre of French from 1945 on. This is genocide,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a conference in Istanbul on Friday.
“Algerians were burnt en masse in ovens. They were martyred mercilessly. If French President Mr. (Nicolas) Sarkozy does not know about this genocide, he should ask his father Paul Sarkozy. His father Paul Sarkozy served as a soldier in the French legion in Algeria in 1940s.”
Once a French colony, guerrillas in the North African nation fought a bloody war against French rule from 1954 to 1962.
The French Foreign Ministry shot back, saying “we deplore excessive use of formulas and personal attacks that do not meet up to the standards of our mutual interest and of our relations. France recalls that it assumes with clarity and transparency its duty to remember the tragedies that have marked its history.”
At the same time, it cited Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’s call for “measure and restraint,” which, he said, “are more than ever necessary under the current circumstances.”
Turkey is angered over the bill, passed by the French National Assembly on Thursday and now under review by the French Senate. Immediately after the vote, Erdogan announced that Turkey is reviewing its ties with France.
He said Turkey is recalling its Paris ambassador to Ankara for consultations, is canceling bilateral visits, and won’t cooperate with France in joint projects within the European Union.
It is also halting “political consultations” with France, stopping bilateral military activities and joint exercises, and canceling permission granted annually for all military overflights, landings and take-offs.
Erdogan hopes the Senate fails to pass the so-called Armenian genocide bill but he warns that if it does, Turkey will initiate more measures toward France.
The Turkish-Armenian controversy over the massacres of last century has reverberated wherever diaspora communities representing both groups exist.
Armenian groups and many scholars argue that starting in 1915, Turks committed genocide, when more than a million ethnic Armenians were massacred in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.
The Republic of Armenia has hailed the French move.
But modern-day Turkey officially denies that a genocide took place, arguing instead that hundreds of thousands of Armenian Christians and Muslim Turks died in intercommunal violence around the bloody battlefields of World War I.
Sarkozy, speaking on TV from the Czech Republic capital of Prague, explained that his country doesn’t need an OK from another nation to develop its policies. He was attending the funeral of late Czech leader Vaclav Havel.
“In every circumstance we must remain cool headed and calm. France alone determines its politics. France does not ask for authorization. France has convictions: human rights, the respect for history. Every country must make the effort to revisit its past. France does not give lessons to anyone nor does it receive lessons from anyone,” Sarkozy said.
Saying that five million Muslims in live in France, Erdogan noted the “dangerous dimensions that racism, discrimination and animosity against Muslims reached in France and Europe. French President Sarkozy got the ambition to win the elections with animosity against Turks and Muslims and unfortunately he doesn’t refrain from playing such dangerous games.”
Turkey and France are NATO allies, and, according to official Turkish statistics, the volume of trade between Turkey and France from January to the end of October this year was more than $13.5 billion.
The genocide debate is an annual source of tension between Turkey and the United States, also two NATO allies. The White House, for example, annually beats back efforts in Congress to pass a resolution which would formally recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide.