Erdogan Issues "Cool-Headed" Response to French Law

Article Summary
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s measured reaction to France’s recent bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide was a wise move, writes Mehmet Ali Birand. As other countries may soon follow France’s example, Turkey should be mindful of its place on the world stage and act with caution and foresight, he warns.

What’s done is done--the French parliament’s recent passing of the bill criminalizing the denial of Armenian genocide was to be expected. Needless to say, this bill was of an entirely political nature. No matter what we [in Turkey] say, and regardless of the harsh reactions that we may display, [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy got what he wanted.

[Sarkozy] diverted Armenian votes away from the Socialists and simultaneously appealed to voters on the extreme right who [desire an uncompromising French stance] on Turkey. He has also added one more barrier to Turkey’s accession to the EU. In a nutshell, he hit multiple birds with one stone.

It was clear that throughout the course of the discussion in the French Parliament’s lower house and Senate, all who spoke took the term “genocide” to be reflective of a historical reality in which Turkey is the culprit. Even those who spoke out against the bill didn’t [object to using the term “genocide”].

What we fail to realize is that unfortunately not only France but the entire international public accepts that Turkey committed a “genocide” [against the Armenians in 1915]. What is at stake now is not whether a “genocide” took place or not, but rather how [Turkey] will be punished [for having taken part in it]. New measures and laws might [emerge in foreign parliaments] in the future.

2015 is a very important year for the Armenians, as they consider it the 100th anniversary of [the alleged] genocide. All our counter-measures [against those accusing Turkey of perpetrating this genocide] should be devised with that date in mind. Excessive, emotional reactions will only weaken our case, and overreacting will leave us isolated. The US is next in line [to pass this kind of legislation], and Germany and Spain might follow it down the same path. We should now start calculating how we will react then.

That is why I appreciate [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s cool-headed approach--it was much healthier and more appropriate to the situation than the yelling and gesticulating [that could have taken place]. It is better to remain calm instead of [immediately] declaring embargoes that would only damage our own image. There will indeed be counteractions, but their attitude should be “European.”

What I fear most are the reactions from [Turkish] municipalities, political parties and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). I am wary of backlash in domestic public opinion, since [Turkish citizens] might not appreciate the prime minister’s calm and wise reaction. Unfortunately, we’re used to these scenes. We’ve seen them before: [Certain political parties or municipalities encourage individuals to] take to the streets; they march to French consulates with flags and black wreaths in their hands; they burn flags, change street names and erect Algerian statues. [Some municipalities] have event sent inspectors to French schools!

As former diplomat Yalim Eralp aptly stated, to react with empty threats and wailing would harm Turkey’s reputation. These kinds of reactions, after a certain point, diminish Turkey’s credibility with the international public. Unfortunately, we have never considered our international credibility before and previously used these kinds of shows to score domestic political points. Hence, the prime minister’s reaction was wise. Now we have to figure out our future moves.

Found in: turkish nationalism, turkish foreign policy, turkish reaction, sarkozy, sanctions, international consensus, french parliament, erdogan level-headed, erdogan, embargoes, eu, armenian genocide

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