Turkey’s ambassador in Paris has criticized French move to include chapters in history and geography textbooks that will allow students to study mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottomans in 1915, claiming that the project is a remnant of the previous French president.
Tahsin Burcuoglu told private Cihan news agency that Turkey is disturbed by the fact that the French Education Ministry is including chapters on the so-called Armenian genocide in textbooks for fourth graders in secondary schools.
Turkish daily Sabah reported on Sunday that French President Francois Hollande's administration included a chapter about the 1915 events in 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.
The report said 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.
Burcuoglu said France’s initiative to include ‘Armenian genocide’ chapters in textbooks has “angered” Turkey, underlining that it is not the three-month project but a remnant of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy administration.
Noting that it is not the first time that the issue is included in French textbooks but this time he said textbooks are featuring full two-page explanation of the 1915 events along with photos. He added that the embassy is carefully investigating that developments and have already notified Ankara over the matter.
At a joint news conference early in July, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the genocide-denial law was unlikely to be resurrected and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu 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 Sarkozy, but has so far received no public support for its EU bid from Paris.
Burcuoglu said Turkey will determine its position on this issue after further examination and urged Turks living in France not to remain indifferent to the issue.
Saying that the number of ethnic Turks in France is more than French Armenians, the ambassador cited problems Turkish students faced in schools earlier over this matter.