Algerian Islamist party defends Turkey over genocide row
ALGIERS - An Algerian Islamist party on Sunday sprang to the defence of Turkey's prime minister after Algeria's leader criticised Ankara for exploiting France's oppression of Algerians during the colonial period.
Bouguerra Soltani, head of the Social Movement for Peace (MSP) party, backed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he was criticised by Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.
Turkey has accused France of hypocrisy for pushing a bill that would make it a crime for anyone to deny that the 1915-17 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks amounted to genocide.
Erdogan has argued that France is turning a blind eye to its own colonial-era killings in Algeria, at the end of World War II and during the north African nation's struggle for independence between 1954 and 1962.
"An estimated 15 percent of the Algerian population was massacred by the French from 1945 onwards," Erdogan has said. "This is a genocide."
Ouyahia implicity rebuked him in remarks Saturday.
Every country had the right to defend its interests, he said, but "nobody has the right to make the blood of Algerians their business".
Ouyahia noted that Turkey had been a member of NATO during the independence war in Algeria and as such had provided material support to France.
"We say to our (Turkish) friends: Stop making capital out of Algeria's colonisation," he added.
But Soltani said Sunday: "We don't accept anyone saying that Erdogan is making the blood of Algerians their business," he told reporters.
"We have a historic cause," he added.
"Colonialism killed 5.5 million Algerians, 1.5 million of them during the (1954-1962) liberation war...," he said, referring to the legacy of French occupation from 1830.
When someone spoke up about your cause, he added, you should thank them rather than criticising them.
Erdogan had asked nothing of Algeria, he added.
"He just told France 'You say that Turkey exterminated the Armenians in 1915, I am reminding you that you exterminated the Algerians'.
"We support all those who call for France to officially acknowledge the crimes of colonial France and to apologise to and compensate the victims," he added.
He denounced Ouyahia's comments as "a service rendered to France".
Algerian historians say that a French crackdown on a protest in the east Algerian city of Setif on May 8, 1945, to call for an end to French colonial rule, left 45,000 people dead.
Western researchers put the death toll at between 8,000 and 18,000.
The French lower house approved the genocide bill December 22 and the Senate is expected to vote on it by the end of January.
If it is enacted, anyone denying that the 1915-1917 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide, could face jail time.