The French position on the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is one of the most principled and consistent in the world.
Many experts believe that the Armenian Diaspora and, in particular, the activities of late Charles Aznavour, had a major influence on French politicians’ stance on the Armenian Genocide.
For 30 years, bills and resolutions on the Armenian Genocide have been passed in France, which has provoked an aggressive reaction from the Turkish political elite and the public.
On May 29, 1998, the National Assembly of France passed a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. Two years later, the Senate of France voted in favor of the draft, changing its wording to “France officially acknowledges that the Armenians were subjected to genocide in 1915.”
Already on November 19, 2001, the National Assembly unanimously passed the bill on the recognition by France of the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1923.
Even before the recognition, a leading Turkish newspaper Milliyet urged its readers to “attack” the French parliamentarians to prevent them from voting. The Turkish Foreign Minister made a statement after the decision of the French parliamentarians, noting that the recognition would seriously damage bilateral relations.
Turkey recalled the ambassador to France for consultations. The media also began to spread information that Turkey would exclude France from the list of bidders on a $7 billion contract on producing uniform for the Turkish army.
In 2006, France began the process of adopting a law criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide along with the Holocaust. The law provided that the denial of the Genocide be punished with 1-year imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros. This law was finally adopted only in 2011.
Turkey’s reaction showed itself quickly. The then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the suspension of relations with Paris, including the recall of the ambassador and the termination of cooperation in the military and economic spheres.
Erdogan also did not rule out the possibility of imposing economic sanctions against France. He also explained the adoption of the law by the desire of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to “win the votes of the Armenian community.”
In Ankara, a protest rally with placards “Sarkozy-liar” was held at the French embassy. Eventually, the law was invalidated by the Constitutional Council of France since it “curbed freedom of speech.”
The third French “strike” was the recent declaration of April 24 as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Armenian Genocide by President of France Emmanuel Macron. Thus, Macron fulfilled his election pledge, as well as the declaration made in Yerevan in October 2018 about the need to establish such a remembrance day.
Special adviser to the Turkish president İbrahim Kalın condemned the decision of the French president, calling the Armenian Genocide “a political lie.” The leader of the Turkish nationalist party Great Unity Mustafa Destici went further, calling for the expulsion from Turkey of 100 thousand Armenians who are living and working there “illegally.”
Official Ankara also painfully reacted to the annual statements of French presidents and their participation in the events commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, the most significant of which was the visit of French President Francois Hollande to Armenia on April 24, 2015, on the centenary of the Genocide.