UN condemned Turkey's cancellation of conference on massacre of Armenians during Ottoman Empire

The European Commission on Friday condemned a Turkish court ruling that ordered the cancellation of an academic conference dealing with the massacre of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire.

Thursday's ruling reflected badly on Turkey's attempts to live up to European democratic norms, just ahead of when it is to open entry talks with the European Union, officials said.

"We strongly deplore this new attempt to prevent Turkish society from freely discussing its history," said EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy.

"The timing of this decision the day before the opening of the conference looks like yet another provocation." Nagy added that the cancellation "illustrates the difficulties of Turkey, and in particular of the judiciary, to ensure effective and uniform implementation of the reforms in Turkey."

She said the scrapping of the conference "will be reflected" in the Commission's regular progress report on Turkey's reform plans, which is to be released Nov. 9.

The conference was scheduled to deal with one of the most sensitive issues in Turkish politics, the killings of Armenians during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire around the time of World War I, which an increasing number of countries have officially recognized as genocide.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also condemned the court's decision.

Nevertheless, Turkey's government has tried hard to counter an Armenian campaign to have the killings recognized as genocide.

Turkey says the killings took place during civil unrest, and backing the genocide claim in Turkey can be a cause for prosecution.

EU officials warn attempts to curb basic human rights such as freedom of expression would reflect badly on its efforts to join the 25-nation EU. In its negotiating mandate for Turkey, the EU warns it will freeze entry talks if Turkey backtracks on human rights commitments.

Earlier this month the EU condemned a legal case against one of the country's most acclaimed contemporary writers, novelist Orhan Pamuk.

EU lawmakers at the European Parliament also announced they were considering sending observers to monitor the trial of Pamuk, who has been charged with insulting the country's national character for his comments on Turkey's killing of Armenians and Kurds, and could face up to three years in prison.

Senior EU officials say the case violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

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