Hollande urges Turkey to 'break taboos' on Armenia WWI killings

French president Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on January 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Martin Bureau)

Paris (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday called on Turkey to take new steps towards the "truth" behind the mass killings of Armenians a century ago, saying "it is time to break the taboos".

"The effort towards the truth must continue and I am convinced that this centenary year will see new gestures, new steps on the road to recognition," Hollande said at a dinner with Armenian groups in Paris.

Armenia says an estimated 1.5 million people were killed by Ottoman forces during World War I in what it calls a genocide.

But modern Turkey has always rejected the term "genocide", putting the toll at 500,000 and blaming their deaths on war and starvation.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this month said he would "actively" challenge a campaign to pressure Turkey to recognise the massacres as genocide, though a year ago he offered an unprecedented expression of condolences for the 1915-1916 killings.

Recalling Erdogan's stance last year, Hollande told members of France's Armenian community, the biggest in the European Union, that Ankara's position "cannot stop there".

"It is time to break the taboos and for the two nations, Armenia and Turkey, to create a new beginning," he said.