French "genocide" bill is attack on Turkey's dignity, foreign minister says

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made a final appeal on Wednesday to French parliamentarians not to back a bill that would make it a crime to deny that Armenians had suffered a "genocide" at the hands of Ottoman Turks, dpa reported.

The lower house of France's parliament, the National Assembly, will on Thursday vote on a bill, which would make denying genocides a crime punishable with a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros (59,000 dollars).

The bill is widely expected to pass but will not become law until it is approved by the Senate.

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Davutoglu called the bill "an attack on our (Turkish) national dignity" and warned that it would not only harm relations between Turkey and France but also chill relations between Turkey and Armenia, which have began a process of normalizing ties.

"But now the process of rapprochement will be affected," he said, adding: "This initiative kills dialogue."

Davutoglu accused France of double standards.

"When there were insults against the Prophet Mohammed, Europeans said it was a question of freedom of expression. And now, they're punishing an opinion," he accused.

The bill has caused anger in Turkey, whose Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned President Nicolas Sarkozy of "grave consequences" for bilateral relations.

Turkey has said it will immediately recall its ambassador if the bill passes the Assembly.

A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Paris, Engin Solakoglu, also warned of consequences for cooperation on international issues.

Without specifically naming Syria, he told dpa: "Can you imagine France and Turkey taking any common measures on any subject after such a hostile act?"

The two countries have been leading international condemnation of Syria over its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Both in Turkey and in France, the timing of the bill has been linked to a presidential election next year in France, which has a small but influential Armenian community.

A similar bill was approved by the assembly in 2006 but was rejected by the Senate in May this year. That bill was proposed by the opposition Socialists. The current bill was proposed by a member of Sarkozy's ruling Union for a Popular Movement.