Turkey Pulse

With Armenian Genocide Bill, Sarkozy "Places Ambitions Before French-Turkish Relations"

Article Summary
According to Kadri Gursel, President Sarkozy has accomplished three things with France’s new bill concerning the Armenian Genocide: He has scored domestic political points, prioritized his political ambitions ahead of France’s relations with Turkey, and challenged any future Turkish bid to join the EU. Turkey should react prudently, he cautions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hit two birds with one stone in getting his bill criminalizing the denial of Armenian genocide through the French Senate. What’s more, he is about to hit a third one.

First, he succeeded in the realm of [French] domestic politics by sticking to his 2007 promise of “punishing the denialists,” and he did so at just at the right time. Not only has he kept his word, but he has also turned [this promise] into potential votes on the eve of the [French] presidential elections three months from now. [He played this card] at the perfect time in his political career.

Second, it is sad but true that [Sarkozy’s] show of force had to come at the expense of Turkey. The French president proved that that potential Turkish political and economic sanctions did not worry him. It is now widely perceived that he placed a few hundred thousand Armenian votes over bilateral relations with Turkey.

French politicians and foreign policy experts do not agree over whether or not France and Turkey are competing in the Mediterranean. However, Turkey has taken on a rather competitive approach to its relations in North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. Although [some of these foreign policy experts] have not yet realized it, we clearly see that Turkey’s foreign policy has some in Paris raising their eyebrows.

The third implication of [Sarkozy’s bill] is the most dangerous. The ‘strategic poison’ Sarkozy is injecting into Turkey’s veins could fatally damage Turkey’s relations with the EU - an eventuality far more dangerous than any partial paralysis in relations with France.

The “Genocide bill” perfectly dovetails with Sarkozy’s goal to keep Turkey out of EU. [Sarkozy does not consider Turkey a European country due to his historical, ideological and cultural way of approaching the issue.

Sarkozy knows better than all of us that for Turkey to adopt a combative stance and level economic and political sanctions [against France] - in contravention of EU norms - would destroy its chances of joining the EU.

A golden rule in the process of becoming an EU member is to have at least one leading EU country’s full consent, and not to face opposition from another leading country. In other words, disagreeable [relations with France would prevent Turkey from ever joining the EU].

What worries me is how Turkey will react to this poison, and whether or not we will fall into the trap of emotional, impulsive and short-tempered reactions.

It is necessary to be rational and cool-tempered. In this regard, the remarks Erdogan made to his own party are promising. “We will not let anyone boast that they in a fight with Turkey... We will adopt an attitude befitting this great county’s historical, cultural and national values, in prudence and in grace.”

I hope that Turkey and the Turkish public will maintain their prudence and grace.

Found in: turkish international perception, turkish reaction, nicolas sarkozy, french parliament, france-turkey relations, erdogan, eu bid, eu, armenian genocide bill

Kadri Gursel is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse and Turkish daily Cumhuriyet. His main focuses are Turkish foreign policy, international affairs, press freedom, Turkey’s Kurdish question, as well as Turkey’s evolving political Islam and its national and regional impacts. He wrote a column for the Turkish daily Milliyet between 2007 and July 2015. Gursel also worked for the Agence France-Presse for nearly five years, between 1993-1997 as an İstanbul based correspondent. While at the AFP, he was kidnapped by Kurdish militants in 1995. He recounted his misadventures at the hands of the PKK in his book titled “Dağdakiler” (Those of the Mountains) published in 1996. Twitter: @KadriGursel


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