Turkey condemns France, Italy over Armenian genocide

Updated with Çavuşoğlu's comment over French decree.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that a decree signed by the French president designating April 24 as the day of commemoration for the Armenian genocide violated the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the French Supreme Court.

According to the decree signed by President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, a commemoration ceremony will be held in Paris every year on April 24. 

The European court in 2015 ruled that denying the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 during World War One did not constitute a crime and the French Constitutional Council in 2017 overturned a former ruling that criminalised the denial of the genocide, calling it an "unnecessary and disproportionate attack against freedom of speech”.

“Macron is making populist rhetoric by trying to fulfil the promises he made to the Armenians in his election campaign,” Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter, referring to the European Parliament elections in May.

“They should look at their dark history first. It has been quarter century since the Rwanda genocide,” the Turkish minister said in a likely reference to accusations that France backed the Rwandan government that carried out the 1994 mass killings.

Turkey on Wednesday also condemned the Italian parliament’s approval of a bipartisan motion officially recognising the Armenian genocide and said the decision would have repercussions on bilateral relations.

The motion, submitted by the country’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement to the Chamber of Deputies, and backed by the far-right Northern League – the Lega Party - passed on Wednesday with 382 votes in favour, none against and 43 abstentions. 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the move was a new example of using Armenian claims for domestic political interests.

“It is not surprising that this motion was drafted by the Lega Party, led by Matteo Salvini, who is committed to sabotaging the relations between Turkey and Italy,” the ministry said. 

The ministry said the Lega Party’s aim was to strengthen its position in European Parliament elections.

“It is inevitable that this motion will have various repercussions on our relations with our strategic partner, Italy, with which we have historical bonds and considerable trade relations,” it said. 

“We strongly condemn the Italian parliament’s most recent attempt at distorting and politicising our nation’s history,” said on Twitter Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidential communications director, adding that the move was unproductive, hostile and deplorable. 

“So-called genocide decision of Italian parliament ignores historical facts and sows new seeds of hostility,” the Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Twitter.

Turkey denies that the systematic massacres and forced deportation of Armenians committed by the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 constituted genocide.