France to have national day marking 'Armenian genocide'

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Paris (AFP) - France will make April 24 a "national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide", French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, honouring a campaign promise he made from his election in 2017.

Speaking to the Armenian community at a dinner in Paris, Macron said France was one of the first nations to denounce the killing of the Armenian people for what it was.

"France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face," he said.

For decades, Armenia and Turkey have been at odds over whether the World War I massacres and deportations of Armenians by their Ottoman rulers should be described as genocide.

Turkey vehemently rejects that the massacres, imprisonment and forced deportation of Armenians from 1915 -- which Armenia says left 1.5 million dead -- constituted a genocide.

Armenians commemorate the mass killings on April 24 because on that date in 1915 a group of Armenian intellectuals was rounded up and assassinated in Constantinople by the Ottoman government.

Macron's remarks at the dinner, organised by the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organisations of France, honoured a campaign promise from his election in 2017.

In his speech he called for "the citizens of tomorrow to be fully aware of the truths of the past" and protested against all forms of denial.

France in January 2001 became one of the first major European country to call the mass killings a "genocide", which more than 20 other states also now recognise.

The French president said he had previously informed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his decision.

At the event, Macron also paid tribute to Charles Aznavour, the French crooner of Armenian origin who died in October last year, and the singer's son, Nicolas Aznavour, gave him a duduk, a traditional Armenian flute made from apricot wood.

The French-Armenian community welcomed Macron's announcement.

Calling France "an example in the world", Mourad Papazian from CCAF, the Co-ordination Council of Armenian organisations of France, said: "We appreciate that the President has kept his commitment. It is a step towards a recognition of more than one indisputable fact."

The musician Andre Manoukian it was "a great joy", adding: "It marks a very important moment for the French of Armenian origin, to see their problems represented in the republic."

Macron went to Armenia in October for the Francophonie summit in Yerevan, where he announced that he would return soon for a state visit.

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