Erdogan: France massacred 15% of Algerian population
ISTANBUL (Turkey) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused France of committing "genocide" in Algeria after French lawmakers voted a bill criminalising the denial of Armenian genocide.
"France massacred an estimated 15 percent of the Algerian population starting from 1945. This is genocide," Erdogan told a news conference after the French move on the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman-era forces.
The Turkish premier accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of "fanning hatred of Muslims and Turks for electoral gains."
France is home to around 500,000 citizens of Armenian descent and they are seen as a key source of support for Sarkozy and his UMP ahead of presidential and legislative elections in April and June next year.
On Thursday, France's National Assembly voted the first step towards passing a law that would impose a jail term and a 45,000 euro fine on anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians constitutes genocide.
During World War I hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turk forces. Armenia says 1.5 million died in a genocide, Turkey says around 500,000 died in fighting after they sided with a Russian invasion.
France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on Turkey not to "overreact" to a bill that he insisted was a parliamentary initiative, and not a project of Sarkozy's government.
France has a 500,000-strong community of Armenian descent, many of whose forebears fled the killings a century ago, and French politicians assiduously court their votes every five years ahead of elections.
Turkey and many of Sarkozy's domestic opponents accuse him of jeopardising relations with a key NATO ally and trading partner to win Armenian votes.