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Nicolas Sarkozy

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Sarkozy on left in Yerevan © 2011 Kara Marston

President of France from May 2007 to May 2012.

2011 Armenia visit

France’s Sarkozy Begins Visit To Armenia

06.10.2011 Ruzanna Stepanian, Tigran Avetisian

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Armenia on Thursday on a two-day state visit which he said will highlight “exceptional ties” between the two nations and should help to expand their bilateral trade.

After an official greeting ceremony at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport, Sarkozy and President Serzh Sarkisian headed to the nearby town of Echmiadzin for a meeting with Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Sarkozy lit a candle in a local cathedral before proceeding to the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan. He put flowers at its eternal fire and planted a tree in the surrounding park to pay his respects to some 1.5 Armenians massacred in Ottoman Turkey during World War One.

Sarkozy reaffirmed France’s recognition of the massacres as genocide and urged Turkey to do the same. “Turkey, which is a great country, would be honorable to revisit its history like the other great countries in the world have done: Germany, France,” he told journalists.

“The genocide of Armenians is a historic reality that was recognized by France. Collective denial is even worse than individual denial,” he said, according to the AFP news agency. “We are always stronger when we look our history in the face, and denial is not acceptable.”

Asked whether France should adopt a law prosecuting anyone who denies the genocide, Sarkozy replied that “if Turkey revisited its history, looked it in the face, with its shadows and highlights, this recognition of the genocide would be sufficient.” “But if Turkey will not do this, then without a doubt it would be necessary to go further,” AFP quoted him as saying.

In an interview with the Armenian news agency Mediamax given ahead of his trip, Sarkozy said, “I could not even think of not going to Armenia, which is so close to Armenia. The fact that this visit will coincide with the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence will make it even more symbolic.”

“This visit is also a way of expressing France’s gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of French people of Armenian extraction, without whom France would not have been the France we have today,” added Sarkozy, who will be up for reelection next year.

The official French delegation accompanying Sarkozy comprised several prominent individuals of Armenian descent, including singer Helene Segara and former football star Youri Djorkaeff. They will be joined on Friday by Charles Aznavour, the world-famous French crooner who also serves as Armenia’s ambassador to Switzerland.

The Armenian and French presidents will inaugurate on Friday Aznavour’s new Yerevan house built by the Armenian government. Sarkozy will also deliver a speech at the nearby France Square. It was named after his country during his predecessor Jacques Chirac’s 2006 visit to Armenia.

Sarkozy’s trip began just one week after he received Sarkisian at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris. He will pay brief visits to neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia on Friday.

In his interview with Mediamax, Sarkozy also called for a quick resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “Now is the time for the parties to take the risk of peace because there is no greater danger than a continued status quo,” he said, echoing joint statements on the issue issued by him, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The United States, France and Russia have for years been trying to broker a Karabakh settlement within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

Analysts said that Karabakh will therefore be high on the agenda of Sarkozy’s talks in Yerevan and Baku. Artur Ghazinian, director of the Yerevan-based Center for European Studies, suggested that with Moscow reportedly not planning to organize more Armenian-Azerbaijani talks in the coming months Paris could take on a more active role in the peace process.

Turkey’s Erdogan Slams France Over Armenian Genocide Recognition

11.10.2011 Turkish Prime Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily rejected on Tuesday French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s calls for Turkey to recognize the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

Erdogan accused Sarkozy of playing the anti-Turkish card to secure reelection and warned of serious damage to relations between France and Turkey.

Visiting Armenia late last week, Sarkozy repeatedly reaffirmed France’s official recognition of the genocide and urged Ankara to stop denying a premeditated government effort to wipe out Ottoman Turkey’s Armenian population.

“The genocide of Armenians is a historic reality that was recognized by France. Collective denial is even worse than individual denial,” he said after laying flowers at the genocide memorial in Yerevan.

Sarkozy, who will be up for reelection next year, also implicitly threatened to enact, within a “very brief” period, a law that would make Armenian genocide denial a crime in France.

“If Turkey revisited its history, looked it in the face, with its shadows and highlights, this recognition of the genocide would be sufficient,” he said. “But if Turkey will not do this, then without a doubt it would be necessary to go further.”

The Turkish government was quick to denounce those remarks and link them with the French presidential election. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Sarkozy is thus seeking to gain votes from French citizens of Armenian descent.

Erdogan condemned the French leader in even stronger terms as he addressed the Turkish parliament on Tuesday. “This is not political leadership. Politics, first of all, requires honesty,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

“There are 600,000 Armenians in your country but also 500,000 Turks. You have relations with Turkey,” Erdogan continued, addressing Sarkozy. “Bearing the title of statesman requires thinking about next generations, not next elections,” he said.

The French parliament officially recognized the slaughter of some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians as genocide with a special law adopted in 2001. Although the move strained ties between Paris and Ankara, Turkey, remains one of France’s major trading partners outside the European Union.

Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on Friday, Sarkozy also described as “unacceptable” Turkey’s refusal to unconditionally reopen its border with Armenia. He at the same time urged his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian to “continue the dialogue with Turkey.”

Sarkozy spoke just days before the second anniversary of the signing in Zurich of Turkish-Armenian agreements envisaging the normalization of bilateral ties. Erdogan’s government has made their ratification by Turkey’s parliament conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Yerevan has rejected this linkage and threatened to formally annul the accords.

Sarkisian hailed Sarkozy’s calls for genocide recognition in a weekend speech delivered in Echmiadzin, a historic town 25 kilometers south of Yerevan. Sarkisian said they disproved his critics’ claims his Western-backed policy of rapprochement with Turkey will complicate a broader international recognition of what many historians consider the first genocide of the 20th century.

Sarkozy Tells Turkey To ‘Respect’ Armenian Genocide Bill

23.12.2011

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed on Friday Turkey’s furious reaction to the passage of a French bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide, saying that Ankara cannot teach his country any “lessons.”

“I respect the views of our Turkish friends -- it's a great country, a great civilization -- and they must respect ours,” the AFP news agency quoted Sarkozy as saying in Prague where he attended the funeral of late Czech President Vaclav Havel.

“France is not giving lessons to anyone but does not want them either,” he said.

“Under all circumstances, we must remain calm … France does not ask for permission, France has its convictions, human rights, and respect for memory,” added Sarkozy.

In remarks aired by French television, Sarkozy also cited a 2001 French law characterizing the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

“Ten years ago France adopted a law recognizing the Armenian genocide, the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians,” he said. “Now the question for the parliament was to know whether the recognition of this genocide should mean that those disputing it can be held accountable.

“This is what was decided by the National Assembly. You see, France has principles.”

Turkey has strongly condemned the bill approved by the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday and imposed political and military sanctions on Paris.

Earlier on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused France of committing genocide in its former colony Algeria and launched a personal attack on Sarkozy. “In Algeria from 1945, an estimated 15 percent of the population was massacred by the French. This is a genocide,” Erdogan said on live television, according to Reuters.

“If the French President Mr. Sarkozy doesn't know about this genocide he should go and ask his father, Paul Sarkozy. His father served in the French Legion in Algeria in the 1940s. I am sure he would have lots to tell his son about the French massacres in Algeria,” the Turkish premier said.

On Thursday Ankara recalled its ambassador in Paris for consultations and suspended mutual political visits as well as joint military projects with its NATO ally. Erdogan reportedly vowed to take more steps on Friday.

“We will take gradual measures as long as the current [French] attitude is maintained,” he said, without elaborating.

AFP reported that 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.

“We have been accused of genocide! How could we not overreact?” the Turkish ambassador to France, Tahsin Burcuoglu, said before taking a flight home. “Turkey will never recognize this story of an Armenian genocide.”

Armenia, which has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, was quick to praise and thank French lawmakers for passing the bill. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said they demonstrated that human rights are a “supreme value” for France.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, condemned the Turkish reaction to the bill as “blackmail.” “I hope that we can expect a similar vote in the French Senate,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Vladimir Karapetian, a foreign policy spokesman for the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), also welcomed the French parliament vote. Karapetian said France thus “reaffirmed its commitment to justice and friendship with the Armenian people.”

Baby named after Sarkozy

A baby born in Gyumri was named Sarkozy Avetisian in honor of the French President shortly after the law was passed in France making it illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide.