Burcuoglu: Insistence on ‘genocide’ bill to hamper Turkish-French ties

Türkiye Materials 11 May 2012 05:11 (UTC +04:00)

Francois Hollande winning the French presidency from Nicolas Sarkozy has increased concerns in Ankara since Hollande is regarded as being more deeply engaged in the Armenian "genocide" bill than his predecessor Sarkozy, although he is expected to be more flexible on the issue of Turkey's EU bid, Today's Zaman reported.

"Insistence on the Armenian 'genocide' bill might take the relations between Turkey and France into a stalemate. Carrying on in the same manner [on the issue of the 'genocide' bill], the two countries will end up confronting each other," said Tahsin Burcuoglu, Turkey's ambassador to France, voicing concerns over Hollande's interest in and support for the Armenian genocide issue similar to that of former French leader Sarkozy.

In 2007 Sarkozy vetoed the opening of five EU negotiating chapters with Turkey. Ankara hopes this veto will be removed during the new French presidency. Burcuoglu considered the canceling of the veto very important for the progress of relations between the two sides. Noting that other EU countries also are behind the veto of Turkey's bid for membership, Burcuoglu said, "If France's veto is lifted from the five negotiating chapters, then other EU members will not be able to hide behind this excuse." He further added: "We want to hope that this period [Hollande's presidency] will be favorable for the development of Turkish-French ties. We want to believe that past difficulties will remain in the past."

Burcuoglu mentioned that in the coming days he will meet with Hollande's team, underlining that there are huge differences between the views of Hollande and Sarkozy.

Commenting on an anti-Turkey declaration made by Sarkozy in 2007, Burcuoglu said, "Hollande did not state that there was no place for Turkey in Europe."

In 2007, President Sarkozy said in a prime-time interview on the TF1 and France 2 television stations that he opposes Turkish membership because "Turkey is not in Europe. It's in Asia Minor."

Believing that socialist leader Hollande will be involved in the process of Turkey's EU bid from an objective point of view, Burcuoglu said, "Hollande used the expression that this process [of Turkey's EU bid] will be of long duration."

Burcuoglu also mentioned that during the new French presidency two more Turkish consulates are planned to open, adding that during Sarkozy's government two consulates had been planned for the cities of Nantes and Bordeaux. "In the initial phase, the Sarkozy administration gave its consent for the consulates to be opened; however, later, due to the tense relations between the two sides, the process stalled," said Burcuoglu. He stated that the Armenian "genocide" bill that came about during the Sarkozy period not only tightened solidarity among the Turkish community but also quintupled the number of voters of Turkish origin in France wanting to participate in the elections.

There are currently four Turkish consulates operating in France, with plans to increase that number to six.