Friday, April 06, 2007

Pipeline talks with France on track, says Turkey

Saturday , 07 April 2007
Source: Today's Zaman
By Emine Kart

There was no official suspension decision made by Turkey regarding talks with Gaz de France on the French firm’s possible participation in a major gas pipeline, diplomatic sources at the Foreign Ministry said Friday.

The remarks came in response to a media report on Thursday saying the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAŞ) had suspended talks with Gaz de France in reaction action to a French bill on the mass killings of Armenians during Ottoman rule.

“There is no suspension decision yet. Besides, this is a commercial issue, but it is not a political one and companies involved in the process will make the final decision on the basis of financial evaluations,” the same diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman.

The four other countries involved in the project, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, have already approved their partnership with Gaz de France in the project, which will transmit Caspian and Iranian gas to Western Europe, bypassing Russia. The other partners reportedly approved Gaz de France’s participation, but BOTAŞ opposed it because of the French draft law on the killings of Anatolian Armenians.

The French National Assembly infuriated Turkey last October by backing a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians were victims of “genocide” at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, though it is unlikely to become a law due to opposition from the Senate and President Jacques Chirac.

Ankara said the legislation would strike a heavy blow to Turkish-French ties and also accused France, one of the EU’s founding countries known for championing liberties, of staining freedom of expression with the bill.

Slamming the proposed legislation, the Turkish Parliament then released a joint declaration, signed by all the parties with parliamentary representation, and said that the bill was motivated by calculations of domestic political gain. They said the bill would also harm prospects for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. Turkey also illustrated how seriously it takes the issue when it said it would suspend military operations with France after the vote.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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