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Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide

The Local/AFP · 24 Apr 2015, 11:13

Published: 24 Apr 2015 11:13 GMT+02:00

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French President Francois Hollande on Friday urged Turkey to use "other words", referring to Ankara's refusal to recognise as genocide the Ottoman empire's massacre of Armenians.

"Important words have already been said in Turkey, but others are still expected so that shared grief can become shared destiny," Hollande said at a Yerevan ceremony marking the genocide's centenary.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart and have long sought to win international recognition of the massacres as genocide.

Modern Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, rejects the claim, arguing that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

Earlier Hollande said he bowed down in memory of the victims who would never be forgotten.

"I bow down in memory of the victims and I come to tell my Armenian friends that we will never forget the tragedies that your people has endured,"Hollande said.

On Thursday German president Joachim Gauck said that his country bore partial blame for the bloodletting.

Gauck's speech at an event commemorating the centenary marked the first time that Berlin has officially used the word "genocide" to describe the killings in Armenia, and an unusually strong acknowledgement of the then German Empire's role.

"In this case we Germans must come to terms with the past regarding our shared responsibility, possibly shared guilt, for the genocide against the Armenians," he said at the ecumenical service in Berlin.

France is one of around two dozen countries to officially recognise the Armenian genocide.

Lawmakers have in the past tried to pass a law that punish people with up to five years in prison if they are caught denying the genocide. A similar law exists for those caught denying the Holocaust.

Story continues below…

In 2011 the French Senate passed a bill that would have criminalized denial of acknowledged genocides, including both the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.

But the following year it was considered unconstitutional by the French Constitutional Court.

“The council rules that by punishing anyone contesting the existence of... crimes that lawmakers themselves recognized or qualified as such, lawmakers committed an unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression," the ruling stated.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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