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Turkey: Armenian 'Genocide' Issue Stirs French-Turkish Ties

Ankara, 2 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Necati Utkan says it is too early to say what measures Turkey might impose if France's upper house of parliament passes a bill stating that Ottoman Turkey committed "genocide" against more than one million Armenians in 1915.

Utkan told RFE/RL today that passage would damage ties with France and result in what he termed "harmful consequences." Turkish news organizations report Ankara is considering economic sanctions ranging from the exclusion of French firms from Turkish defense contracts to a general boycott of French goods.

Ankara denies that Ottoman Turkey committed genocide but says massacres were committed by both Armenians and Turks. Utkan also said Turkey has opened the Ottoman archives to scholars. But RFE/RL's Armenian service reports that Armenian scholars have never been given access to the archives, and that many other noted foreign historians also have been denied access.

Asked by RFE/RL whether a time has come for a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians to evaluate the issue, Utkan said Ankara has nothing against such a commission. But he said it should not be limited to just Armenians and Turks. He said Americans and Europeans should also take part.

Utkan said the government will not form such a commission, but that it should be up to historians. He said Turkey is willing to provide archival information and other materials to researchers.