French leader Nicholas Sarkozy visited Armenia and called on Turkey to recognize the 1915 killings of Armenians as genocide, hopefully during his tenure as president.
The massacre took place in the last days of the Ottoman Empire when 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed. Turkey, a secular Muslim country seeking EU membership, said the deaths resulted from a civil war, disease and famine.
“If a big country like Turkey accepts the dark pages of its history…. Armenia and France will see it as a real step forward,” Sarkozy said.
Otherwise, he said, “France would go further and change the law to qualify the denial of the genocide as a criminal offence.”
The French parliament recognized the genocide in 2001. In all, 20 countries, including Russia, and 42 U.S. states have recognized the genocide as a historical event.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Sarkozy said Turkey was a bridge between the East and the West, praised its role and achievements but ruled out its EU membership in the near future.