Genocide tit-for-tat: Turkey says France slaughtered Algerians

Turkey has hit back at France, accusing it of committing genocide against Algerians, after French lawmakers passed a bill which makes the denial of the Armenian "holocaust" a crime. The Turkish PM described the bill as racist and anti-Muslim.

Turkey has gone far beyond conventional diplomatic and economic gestures in reacting to the move, insisting French actions during its colonial rule over Algeria and during the Algerian War amounted to genocide. 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that "around 15 percent of the population of Algeria was massacred by the French, starting in 1945." He added that Algerians were “mercilessly martyred” and “burned en masse in ovens” by the French.

Erdogan believes that French President Nicholas Sarkozy is trying to raise more support ahead of elections by “promoting animosity against Turks and Muslims," as France has a large expatriate community of Armenians who are expected to welcome the new bill, should it be passed by the Senate.

Erdogan’s statement came on Friday, a day after the French lower house passed a bill that made it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 constituted genocide. It will only become law if approved by the Senate, which blocked the law last time an attempt was made to introduce it.

On Thursday, Turkey suspended all political and economic ties with France, including military cooperation, and ordered its ambassador to return to Ankara for “consultations.” The country fiercely denies it took part in a genocide of Armenians during World War I, even though most historians agree that it did. 

Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian thanked France for its support in voting through the bill.

"By passing a bill criminalizing the denial of the genocide, France has once again proven its commitment to general human values," Nalbandian said, as cited by Interfax.