Turkey has issued a diplomatic note to France over its move to include the so-called “Armenian Genocide” in history and geography books used in French secondary schools.
Turkey’s embassy in Paris issued a diplomatic note in the form of official letters to the French Foreign Ministry and Education Ministry to protest the inclusion in French textbooks of a two-page section that details mass killings of Armenians in 1915 using what the embassy says are “fake documents.”
Relations between Paris and Ankara had begun to thaw after a decision in February by France’s constitutional court to strike down the genocide denial law as contrary to free speech. But the ties of the two countries could see a winter again as newly elected President François Hollande said in July that he will stand by a campaign pledge to make it illegal to deny that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was genocide.
Turkey had canceled all economic, political and military meetings with France in December after the French parliament voted in favor of the draft law. At a joint news conference early in July, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the law was unlikely to be resurrected and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu hailed the opening of a warmer phase in relations with France.
Armenia, backed by many historians, says that about 1.5 million Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War I in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government.
Turkey says there was heavy loss of life on both sides during the fighting, in which Armenian partisans supported invading Russian forces. The Ottoman Empire collapsed after the war. Successive Turkish governments and the vast majority of Turks have taken the charge of genocide as an insult to their nation.
Ankara had hoped the Socialist Hollande’s election might mean France is now more open to Turkey’s joining the European Union than it was under his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but has so far received no public support for its EU bid from Paris.
Ankara demanded in the letters that the French authorities revise allegedly “objective” data provided in the textbooks. The letters also criticized telegrams allegedly sent by then Ottoman minister Talat Pasha that prove the mass killings of Armenians were done in a systematic and deliberate way. The embassy said the telegraphs are fake.
The letters also warned that the section in the French textbook will inflame hatred between the two nations.
Chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s powerful education committee Navi Avc? told Today’s Zaman in a recent interview that “the erosion of French culture and the shift towards the radical right in French politics that started with Sarkozy continues to have a negative impact on the French education system.” “I just hope that sensible French intellectuals will raise their voices against this kind of provocative move that will plant seeds of hate in the minds of young people in France,” he added.
The embassy also attached a detailed historical report on the 1915 events in its letter to the French Education Ministry. It claimed that two books published by the Hachette and Hatier publishing houses include fake historical documents and Armenian activists whose academic credentials are unknown.
The Turkish Embassy stressed in the letters that French citizens of Turkish descent will be negatively affected by the inclusion of the section.
The section in the French textbook uses a book by Aram Andonian, an ethnic Armenian from ?stanbul, titled “The Memoirs of Naim Bey: Turkish Official Documents Relating to the Deportation and the Massacres of Armenians,” which is also known as the “Talat Pasha telegrams” and was originally published in 1920.
Andonian is an exiled Armenian, who was, according to his memoirs, assisted by Naim Bey in Aleppo in publishing the telegrams of Talat Pasha, which the Ottoman minister authored and which supposedly prove the authenticity of the so-called “Armenian Genocide.”
Prominent historians Eric Jan Zurcher, Andrew Mango and Guenther Lewy have downplayed evidence provided in the book while in-depth research by ?inasi Orel and Süreyya Yuca in 1986 revealed that the book has many fallacies and inconsistencies. The latter two also could not find any traces of Naim Bey in Aleppo archives and argued that Andonian might have constructed the man.