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GENOCIDE

Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide

French president François Hollande has urged Turkey to end its refusal to recognise the massacre of Armenians during World War One.

Hollande urges Turkey over Armenian genocide
French president François Hollande arrives in Armenia for a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Photo: AFP

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.

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.

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RWANDA

Macron proposes day of commemoration for Rwanda genocide

French President Emmanuel Macron proposed an annual day of commemoration for the Rwanda genocide on Sunday as the African nation marked 25 years since the massacres of the minority Tutsi community.

Macron proposes day of commemoration for Rwanda genocide
African Union chief Moussa Faki, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide in Kigali, Rwanda on April 7. Photo: Y
The French leader expressed his “solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion for the victims and their families” in a statement that proposed April 7 as an annual remembrance day in France.
 
Macron drew criticism from some activists for failing to attend the start of commemoration events in Rwanda on Sunday, instead sending a personal envoy, a Rwandan-born MP Herve Berville who was orphaned in the 1993 violence.
 
A Rwandan victims' group, Ibuka France, hailed Macron's announcement of a national Rwanda genocide day and said it had suggested the idea during a meeting with the 41-year-old leader last week.
 
“My reaction is one of satisfaction,” the head of the group, Marcel Kabanda, said before adding that he hoped France would now introspect more about its role in the massacres.
 
“It's not the French population fundamentally, but the political elite that needs to talk about it more. It will take time but it's a new phase,” he told AFP.
 
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The genocide has cast a long shadow over Franco-Rwandan relations. Rwanda's current President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, accuses France of having supported the ethnic Hutu forces behind most of the slaughter and of helping some of the perpetrators to escape.
 
On Friday, Macron announced the creation of a commission of historians and researchers that will delve into the French state's archives in a move intended to set the historical record straight.
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