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France declares day marking Armenian genocide

February 5, 2019

France has declared a national day of commemoration to remember the 1915 Armenian genocide. The announcement triggered an angry response from Turkey.

Armenian genocide
Image: picture alliance/CPA Media Co. Ltd

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday declared April 24 to be a national day to commemorate the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Macron made the statement at an annual dinner of the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations in France, fulfilling a 2017 campaign promise.

Read more: Atrocities against Armenians should not be forgotten says Chancellor Merkel

France was among the first countries to denounce "the murderous hunt of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire," Macron told the Armenian community in France.

Set to anger Turkey

Turkey on Wednesday strongly condemned the announcement, accusing the French president of using the event as political fodder.

"We condemn and reject attempts by Mr Macron, who is facing political problems in his own country, to save the day by turning historic events into political material," a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey officially denies that the events that started in 1915 amounted to genocide and has lashed out at countries that have recognized them as such.

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When France did so in 2001, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador. Tensions mounted again in 2016 when France passed a bill making it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide.

Read more: Dutch parliament recognizes 1915 Armenian 'genocide' 

Germany joined nearly 30 countries that have recognized the massacres as genocide in 2017, touching off a crisis in relations between the two countries.

'Events of 1915'

Turkey officially refers to what happened as the "Events of 1915."

The government says that ethnic Armenians represented a fifth column backed by Russia during World War I, and that the mass deportation and deaths of Armenians that followed were not premeditated or intentional — a key requirement in the legal definition of genocide.

Karte Siedlungsgebiete der Armenier 1915 Englisch

Officials in Turkey put the number of Armenians who died at around 500,000, while Armenia puts the number at about 1.5 million out of a prewar population of some 2 million.

Armenians have documented systematic mass murder, organized banditry, raping of women, pillaging of property and other atrocities.

Turkish officials also point out that hundreds of thousands of Muslims died from combat, starvation, cold and disease in eastern Anatolia during the war.

France has the largest Armenian diaspora in Europe, most of which arrived after the end of World War I. Armenian communities also arrived from the former French mandates of Syria and Lebanon and from the former Soviet Union after 1991.

nn,cw/amp (Reuters, AFP)

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