Turkey hopes nuclear partner France will review its stance on Armenian Genocide

Ankara is expecting to see Paris weigh its stance on Armenian genocide more carefully amid improving trade ties, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told reporters Monday in Ankara, Today’s Zaman reports.

France’s GDF Suez will partner with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and Itochu Corporation to build Turkey’s second nuclear power plant at an estimated cost of $22 billion under an agreement signed last week. The consortium will use French nuclear group Areva’s Atmea reactors.

Yıldız’s remarks on Monday come on the heels of speculation in French and Turkish media that the nuclear deal will benefit the political relations between Paris and Ankara, which have been strained by the former’s recognition of killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide. Ankara last year rejected requests by two French firms to be involved in Turkish nuclear power projects amid Turkish anger at a French bill making it illegal to deny that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago was genocide.

Observers argued the French stance on the issue would continue to test Turkey’s patience as the 100th anniversary of 1915 events approaches.

Recalling that the French government is aware of the need to break the ice in ties with Turkey, Yıldız said he expected the latest energy deal to serve this end. “We unfortunately failed to bring about a rapprochement during the [former President Nicolas] Sarkozy term. …last week’s deal is a positive step to see this happen,” Yıldız remarked. The minister said although it is too early to expect concrete steps from France in this regard, he believed energy matters in political relations today more than ever before.

Apart from the genocide claims, Turkey also hopes to see France soften its stance on Ankara’s bid to join the EU. Yıldız had earlier said Turkey would expect gestures from Paris on its EU bid. Prior to the nuclear deal, the French government agreed in February to the opening of talks on one of the five negotiating chapters that it has been blocking since former President Sarkozy’s term in office.

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