Armenia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian speaks during news conference Riga January 25, 2012. (Photo:Reuters)
Armenia's Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Wednesday applauded France for criminalising denial of the Armenian genocide, after a vote that sparked a fierce reaction from Turkey.
"It is a very important mechanism to prevent new crimes against humanity," Nalbandian told reporters during a visit to Latvia.
"This is an important step by France which could be not only welcomed but supported by other states in Europe and elsewhere," Nalbandian said.
The French Senate on Monday approved a bill threatening to jail anyone in France who denies that the World War I-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces amounted to genocide.
Asked if he expected others to follow suit, Nalbandian said he hoped so, underlining that more than 20 countries and international bodies now recognised that genocide took place.
"The first thing we have to do is turn a page in our common history with Turkey, not through denial but through recognition of the Armenian genocide. We do hope very much that there will come a day when Turkey itself recognises the Armenian genocide," Nalbandian said.
Armenians and their supporters say up to 1.5 million were killed in a genocidal campaign in 1915 and 1916 by what was then the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
Turkey disputes the figure, saying 500,000 died, and denies this was genocide, ascribing the toll to wartime fighting and starvation and accusing the Armenians of siding with Russian invaders.
Turkey, which traditionally hits back over genocide recognition, has vowed to impose sanctions on Paris.
While Latvia does not recognise the genocide formally, it strikes a chord in a country that officially lists Nazi and Soviet killings of its people as crimes against humanity.
"There have been similarities in our very difficult history and that's one issue where we understand the pain of the Armenian people," Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said.
"Even if it is very difficult, the best thing is to have a discussion about a common past, mostly in an academic rather than politicised environment," he added.