ANKARA (Reuters): Turkey has frozen all military ties with France in protest over the French parliament's support for a bill making it a crime to deny claims of an Armenian genocide, the state Anatolian news agency said on Wednesday.
The National Assembly voted last month in favour of the bill, triggering angry protests and threats of a trade boycott in Turkey, which strongly rejects the claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians during World War One.
The bill is unlikely to become law due to opposition from the Senate and President Jacques Chirac, but Turkish leaders have said the National Assembly's move will harm bilateral ties.
"Relations with France in the military field have been suspended," Anatolian quoted General Ilker Basbug, head of Turkey's land forces, as saying.
"High level visits between the two countries are not being made," added Basbug, who is number two in the hierarchy of Turkey's powerful armed forces. He gave no further details.
The French foreign ministry declined to comment.
French defence firms view NATO member Turkey, which has a fast-growing economy, as a lucrative market for their hardware.
The Armenian issue is very sensitive in Turkey, which denies any genocide took place but says large numbers of both Muslim Turks and Christian Armenians were killed in a partisan conflict that raged on Turkish soil as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
France, which holds elections next year, is home to the largest Armenian diaspora in Europe.
Chirac said during a recent visit to Yerevan that Turkey must accept the genocide before it can join the European Union.
Turkey began EU entry talks last year but the large Muslim country's accession bid faces growing opposition from some existing member states, including France.