French President Francois Hollande’s administration has included a chapter about the 1915 mass killings of ethnic Armenians in eastern Anatolia in secondary-school textbooks — a move that could once again upset relations with Turkey, which was hopeful about rebuilding strained ties with Paris following the election of the new president.
Turkish daily Sabah reported on Sunday that the French Education Ministry has decided to include chapters about the so-called “Armenian genocide” in history and geography books used in French secondary schools.
French students studying world history since 1910 will also read a chapter called “The Armenian Genocide.”
Hollande said last month that he will stand by a campaign pledge to make it illegal to deny that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was genocide.
Relations between Paris and Ankara had begun to thaw after a decision in February by France’s constitutional court to strike down the genocide denial law as contrary to free speech.
Turkey had canceled all economic, political and military meetings with France in December after the French parliament voted in favor of the draft law.
At a joint news conference early in July, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the law was unlikely to be resurrected and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu hailed the opening of a warmer phase in relations with France.
Armenia, backed by many historians, says about 1.5 million Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War I in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government.
Turkey says there was heavy loss of life on both sides during the fighting, in which Armenian partisans supported invading Russian forces. The Ottoman Empire collapsed after the war. Successive Turkish governments and the vast majority of Turks feel the charge of genocide is an insult to their nation.
Turkey hoped Hollande’s election might mean France is more open to its joining the European Union than under his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but has so far received no public support for its EU bid from Paris.
History-Geography Teachers Council Secretary-General Hubert Tison has said the chapter in the textbooks is devoted to giving detailed information on the so-called “Armenian genocide.”
Tison criticized as “redundant” the inclusion of the chapter, which will explain in detail the genocide, ethnic structure of the Ottoman Empire, rule of Talat Pasha and policies of nationalist Turks and purported exiles. The chapter will also include the numbers of Armenians who were killed, exiled or sent to death.
Turkish Education Ministry officials said they will first need to examine the book and see if it includes phrases that incriminate Turkey and they will respond in line with international law through diplomatic channels. The officials said both countries earlier established commissions composed of experts to remove discriminatory phrases in textbooks and accused the French government of what they said is a “politically motivated” move.