Dec. 22 - Turkey's prime minister accuses France of racism for passing a bill making it a crime to deny genocide, including the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Katharine Jackson reports.
France opened a diplomatic rift with Turkey when it passed a draft law to criminalize the denial of genocide, including the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. An angered Turkey canceled all economic, political and military meetings with France and called its ambassador back from Paris. At a news conference in Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called the draft law - proposed by members of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's party - "politics based on racism." (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) TURKISH PRIME MINISTER TAYYIP ERDOGAN SAYING: "Efforts to gain votes using Turkophobia and Islamophobia just to win the presidential elections in France for personal ambitions raises concerns, not only in the name of France, but also in the name of all Europe and universal values of Europe." Lawmakers in France's National Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, which will be debated in the Senate next year. Armenia - backed by many historians and parliaments - says about 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed during World War One, in a policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government in what is now eastern Turkey. Armenia's Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian praised the vote. (SOUNDBITE) (Armenian) ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER EDWARD NALBANDIAN SAYING: "France re-confirmed its high mission of being the cradle of human rights and once again proved its commitment to universal human values. On this occasion I would like to reiterate words of gratitude to the highest authorities of France, the National Assembly and the entire French people." Successive Turkish governments have said the charge of genocide is an insult to their nation, and argue there was heavy loss of life on both sides of the conflict. Katharine Jackson, Reuters.