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Turkey to drop sanctions on France over Armenia

Turkey to drop sanctions on France over Armenia

ANKARA — Turkey on Thursday praised the positive attitude adopted by the new French president toward relations with Ankara, saying that sanctions imposed on Paris would no longer be implemented.

“Sanctions will drop from the agenda thanks to this new stance adopted by France,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised interview, adding that he would be visiting Paris next month.

New French President Francois Hollande promised to open a “new page” in relations, which hit a low over French objections to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and controversial legislation in France seeking to make it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide.

Turkish-French relations deteriorated under Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who angered Ankara when he pushed ahead with a bill to criminalise denial of the Armenian genocide in 1915.

After the contentious bill passed in the National Assembly in December Turkey retaliated by suspending military and political cooperation with Paris.

But France’s top constitutional court struck down the bill in February, saying it violated freedom of expression, in a ruling welcomed by Ankara. Sarkozy vowed to launch new legislation but was defeated at the polls first.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by Turkey’s former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died and ascribes the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I.

During the interview, Davutoglu said he soon would pay an official visit to Paris for talks with French officials.

“After the talks on July 5, this stagnation in bilateral ties will hopefully be over,” he added.

A Turkish foreign ministry diplomat told AFP that whether sanctions against France would be dropped would depend on the upcoming meeting.

Davutoglu will stay an extra day in Paris where he will participate in the third “Friends of Syria” meeting on July 6, noted the diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.

Turkey and France have the strength to overcome problems in their bilateral relationship, said Davutoglu.

“We have a clear attitude. The Turkish republic respects all nations if it is respected by all,” he said. “But if it is disrespected, it takes necessary steps in return to protect its nation’s honour and national interests.”

On Wednesday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hollande on the sidelines of a UN meeting in Brazil, when the two leaders agreed to turn a “new page” in relations, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Erdogan also invited Hollande to make the first official visit to Turkey by a French president for 20 years, and received a positive response, Anatolia said.

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