Turkey responded to French genocide allegations with a charge of its own yesterday, accusing France of committing genocide during its colonial occupation of Algeria.
On Thurday, French lawmakers passed a Bill making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks constituted genocide.
The deepening acrimony between the two strategic allies and trading partners could have repercussions far beyond the settling of accounts over some of the bloodiest episodes of the past century.
Turkey was already frustrated by French opposition to its stalled European Union bid and hopes for Western-backed rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia seem ever more distant ahead of 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian killings.
The Bill strikes at the heart of national honour in Turkey, which maintains there was no systematic campaign to kill Armenians and that many Turks also died during the chaotic disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
The French Bill still needs the approval of the Senate, but after it passed the lower house, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, halted bilateral political and economic contacts, suspended military co-operation and ordered his country's ambassador home for consultations.
"What the French did in Algeria was genocide," Mr Erdogan said yesterday in a heavily personal speech laced with criticism of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. He alleged that beginning in 1945, about 15 per cent of the population of Algeria was massacred by the French. He also said Algerians were burned in ovens. "They were mercilessly martyred," he added.
Mr Erdogan appeared to be referring to allegations that the French burned the dead in ovens after a 1945 uprising that began in the Algerian town of Setif. Algerians say about 45,000 people may have died, while official French figures say the number was up to 20,000.
The French Bill's passage "is a clear example of how racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe", the Turkish leader said. "French President Sarkozy's ambition is to win an election based on promoting animosity against Turks and Muslims," he added.
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