Turkey to drop sanctions on France over Armenia

AFP , Thursday 21 Jun 2012

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and new French President Francois Hollande agree to turn new page after Sarkozy-era deterioration in relations

French President Francois Hollande gestures during a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti at Chigi palace in Rome June 14, (Photo: Reuters).

Turkey on Thursday praised the positive attitude adopted by the new French president toward relations with Ankara, saying that sanctions imposed on Paris would no longer be implemented.

"Sanctions will drop from the agenda thanks to this new stance adopted by France," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised interview, adding that he would be visiting Paris next month.

New French President Francois Hollande promised to open a "new page" in relations, which hit a low over French objections to Turkey's bid to join the European Union and controversial legislation in France seeking to make it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide.

Turkish-French relations deteriorated under Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy was in power, who angered Turkey when he pushed ahead with a bill to criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide in 1915.

After the contentious bill passed in the National Assembly in December Turkey retaliated by suspending military and political cooperation with Paris.

But France's top constitutional court struck down the bill in February, saying it violated freedom of expression, in a ruling welcomed by Ankara. Sarkozy vowed to launch new legislation but was defeated at the polls first.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died and ascribes the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I.

During the interview, Davutoglu said he would pay an official visit to Paris on July 5 for talks with French officials.

"After the talks on July 5, this stagnation in bilateral ties will hopefully be over," he added.

On Wednesday, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a "new page" in relations, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Erdogan also invited Hollande to make the first official visit to Turkey by a French president for 20 years, and received a positive response, Anatolia said.

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