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Turkey might not invite France to Syria summit

media Turkish protestors against genocide bill in front of French consulate, … Reuters/Osman Orsal

Turkey is considering whether or not to invite France to the meeting in Istanbul of the summit for "Friends of Syria" amid a souring in the relationship between Paris and Ankara over a controversial genocide bill.

Istanbul will host the second "Friends of Syria" conference in late March after the first meeting in Tunis on February 24.

"We haven't sent any invitation to any country yet but we are considering whether to invite France," said a Turkish diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity.

The French parliament infuriated Turkey last year when it passed a law making it a criminal offence to deny that the Ottoman empire committed genocide against its Armenian population.

France had already recognised the killings as a genocide, but the new law sought to go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Last Tuesday, France's highest legal body, the Constitutional Council ruled the law
"unconstitutional," but President Nicolas Sarkozy promptly ordered his government to draft a new bill.

"The ruling of the Constitutional Council is obvious but we don't know yet what'll happen in the end," said the diplomat.

Turkey suspended political and military cooperation with France over the law and threatened to cut economic and cultural ties, but welcomed the Constitutional Council ruling.

The Turkish diplomat said that if it is decided to invite France, an invitation would be sent to Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, not to Sarkozy, as the conference would be at ministerial level.

Juppé did not conceal his disapproval of the genocide legislation.

"But ultimately this would be a multilateral gathering, not a bilateral one," said the diplomat, implying that the French would probably be invited in the end.


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