France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill on Thursday making denial of the Armenian genocide a crime punishable by a 45,000-euro fine and a year in jail.
The bill refers to the deaths of more than 1 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917.
The bill, which will now to the upper house, sets the country on a collision course with Turkey. Ankara had threatened “grave consequences,” including diplomatic and economic sanctions, if the bill was passed.
Turkey has already responded by recalling its ambassador from France.
In a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy last week, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the proposed law is hostile to Turkey, the Turkish nation and the Turkish community living in France.
Ankara dismisses the genocide allegations, saying that many Muslim Turks and Kurds were also put to death as Russian troops invaded, often aided by Armenian militias.
Turkey has suggested that the law is an attempt to play up to France’s 500,000 ethnic Armenians and secure their votes in the upcoming presidential election.
Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic relations since the latter became independent following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in a show of support for Azerbaijan following a bloody conflict over Nagorny Karabakh, in which some 35,000 died on both sides.