Things start moving: French genocide bill changes reality around Turkey

Turkey is not in a hurry to materialize its threats of economic sanctions against France, as it deems the law passed by the Senate of France criminalizing the public denial of the Armenian genocide is not yet a final decision by Paris. So says Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

Turkey has so far limited its actions to some demonstrative steps, showing what it can do if French President Nicolas Sarkozy signs the law, which is expected in the coming days.

Immediately after the January 23 adoption of the law in the senate, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu went to Moscow, after earlier canceling his trip to Brussels. In the Russian capital, the top Turkish diplomat made a number of remarkable statements. First, it was stated there that trade between Russia and Turkey may reach a $100 billion mark over the next five years. Secondly, Davutoglu said that Turkey will not become a springboard for attacks on Iran. And before that, a Turkish minister who visited Moscow said that, along with Russia, Turkey is in favor of non-interference in Syrian affairs. Besides, an unprecedented joint statement was issued by the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey on the Karabakh problem.

Therefore Turkey tried to show that if pressure continues it will form an alliance with Russia and Iran, refusing to cooperate with the West. But, apparently, the West has not been deterred by this either. Experts do not even rule out that France is intentionally provoking Turkey into taking some drastic steps to abandon its allied services.

Apparently, Turkey is also aware that her being an Islamic country and simultaneously a member of NATO sometimes does not satisfy the Western community. With the adoption of a bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide France’s Sarkozy, who is running for a second presidential term in spring, hopes to gain the support of not only ethnic Armenian voters, but also those of the far-right circles that suffer from Islamophobia and oppose Turkey’s membership in the European Union, claimed Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

The French Senate law criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide, the discussions of an Armenian Genocide recognition bill in the Knesset of Israel and a possible adoption of such a law in the German Parliament show that the process of international affirmation of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire is unstoppable, said director of the Yerevan-based Center for Regional Studies Richard Giragosian.

The Armenian genocide issue has been considered by Israeli parliamentarians for quite some time now. And recently a German parliamentarian said that discussions of the issue might soon begin also at the Bundestag.

Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan also believes that “the train of the Armenian Genocide recognition in the world has set off and it cannot be stopped.” According to him, this event has changed the reality around Turkey and Europe’s attitude towards Turkey.

Director of the Institute of Political and Social Studies of the Black Sea-Caspian region Vladimir Zakharov said: “Now it is impossible to say that there was no Armenian Genocide as Turkey and Azerbaijan have tried to do it.” He added that the adoption of such a law by one of the most influential countries will inevitably lead to a wave of other recognitions of the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian Genocide is, indeed, a subject being discussed internationally. Thus, British Prime Minister David Cameron, recently replying to the question of a Turkish delegate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe regarding the French criminalization of the Armenian genocide denial, said that appalling things were happening to Armenians and atrocities were committed against them. “Our position on the issue raised is clear. Appalling things happened to the Armenian people; appalling atrocities were committed. It is important to state that, but we have to live in the present,” said the British prime minister, adding that the UK has a legislation making it possible to prosecute people for appalling war crimes.

The French Senate’s passage of the bill also appears to have inspired Armenian American lobby groups with greater optimism for a genocide resolution in the United States. Aram Hamparian, the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, the largest of such groups, earlier this week again urged U.S. President Barack Obama to honor his pledge to recognize the mass killings and deportations of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

“The courageous vote by the French Senate shines the spotlight across the Atlantic, on American policymakers, who, for far too long, have let Ankara block U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” said Hamparian.