Turkish envoy back in Paris amid row over Armenia genocide

AFP , Sunday 8 Jan 2012

Turkish ambassador returns to Paris tasked with persuading French legislators not to pass a bill that will outlaw denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide, from being approved by the Senate

The Turkish ambassador to France, Tahsin Burcuoglu, has returned to Paris after consultations over French legislation that would outlaw denial of the Armenian genocide, an official said Sunday.

"The ambassador has finished the consultations for which he was recalled and returned to France on Saturday," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal told AFP.

Burcuoglu was recalled to Ankara after the French parliament's lower house approved a bill criminalising denial of the genocide and will now focus on preventing the bill from being approved by the Senate, Unal said.

The bill was entered last week onto the agenda of the left-dominated Senate and is expected to win passage because it is backed by both sides of the aisle.

Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy has championed the legislation, drawing allegations that he is seeking to woo the half a million French of Armenian descent ahead of April elections.

French lawmakers voted on December 22 to jail and fine anyone in France who denies that the 1915 killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide, prompting Turkey to suspend political and military cooperation with Paris.

During World War I many Armenians died in Ottoman Turkey. Armenia says 1.5 million were killed in a genocide, a term Turkey rejects, saying instead that around 500,000 died in fighting after Armenians sided with Russian invaders.

Turkey has threatened a new round of retaliation if the Senate passes the bill.

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