Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint news conference with Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil (not pictured) in Istanbul December 17, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told France on Saturday to study its own history rather than Turkey's in a warning against the French parliament passing a law making it illegal to deny the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was genocide.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a major critic of Turkey's flagging bid to join the European Union, told Turkey in October that unless it recognised the 1915 killings as genocide, France would consider making denial a crime.
Erdogan has already sent Sarkozy a letter warning political and economic relations would suffer grave consequences if the bill was passed into law and he reiterated the message at a news conference on Saturday.
"Those who want to see genocide should turn round and look at their own dirty, bloody history," Erdogan said after talks with Libyan National Transitional Council chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
The draft law, put forward by a deputy from Sarkozy's party, is due to go before parliament next Thursday and proposes a one-year prison sentence and 45,000 euro ($58,500) fine for denying the killings constitute genocide.
"If the French National Assembly wants to take an interest in history let it take the trouble of illuminating what happened in Africa, in Rwanda and Algeria," Erdogan said in his first operation since recovering from surgery.
"Let it go and research how many people French soldiers killed in Algeria, how they killed them and what inhumane methods they used."
France is Turkey's fifth-biggest export market and sixth-biggest country from which it imports goods and services.
Armenia, backed by many historians and parliaments, says some 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War One in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government.
Ankara denies the killings constitute genocide and says many Muslim Turks and Kurds were also put to death as Russian troops invaded eastern Anatolia, often aided by Armenian militias.
The French Foreign Ministry has stressed the draft law was not a government initiative.
Erdogan said in his letter common sense should prevail over political calculations, a hint the draft law was aimed at securing the support of 500,000 French voters of Armenian descent in elections due in five months time.
Turkey and Armenia signed a peace accord in 2009, agreeing to set up a commission of international experts to examine the events of 1915, restore diplomatic ties and open their border to trade, but neither side has ratified the deal.
Turkey has increasingly flexed its rising economic and political muscle on the world stage and in the Middle East as its economy continues to show strong growth while western Europe suffers a financial crisis.