* Turkey tells France not to preach
* President calls for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation
* Sarkozy touring Caucasus region
(Adds Sarkozy visit to Georgia, changes dateline from Yerevan)
By Emmanuel Jarry
TBILISI, Oct 7 French President Nicolas Sarkozy
accused Russia before a cheering crowd in Georgia on Friday of
violating the ceasefire that ended the 2008 war in the Caucasus
and assured his audience that the door to the European Union
Sarkozy addressed some 30,000 people packing Freedom Square
in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, his last stop on a two-day
Caucasus region tour that also took him to Armenia and
He said Russia had flouted the truce he brokered to end its
five-day war with Georgia by building up forces in the breakaway
regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia instead of withdrawing to
"France will not resign itself to a 'fait accompli'," he
said, with Georgia's pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili,
looking on. "I would like to reiterate here my commitment to
watch over the enforcement of the accord."
Russia strengthened its control over South Ossetia and
Abkhazia in the brief war and recognized them as independent
nations afterwards, clouding Saakashvili's hopes of bringing
Georgia into NATO and the EU.
Sarkozy said the ex-Soviet republic was "free to express its
aspirations to join NATO, if it is the will of the people", as
well as "to draw closer to the European Union and one day join.
"When I am in Tbilisi, I feel I am in Europe," he said.
Sarkozy also pleased his hosts in Armenia, warning Turkey
that it might soon become illegal in France to deny that the
mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was
genocide. He called on Turkey to make a "gesture of
reconciliation" and recognize the killings as genocide.
If it does not, he said, France "will consider it must go
further to amend its legislation to penalise this denial".
Sarkozy, who is expected to announce later this year that he
will seek a second term in an election next April, warned the
measures could be adopted in "a very brief" time frame but said
his comments were not an ultimatum.
The challenge by the president of France, which opposes
Turkey's bid to join the EU, drew an angry rebuttal from Ankara.
Turkey's foreign minister said France should confront its
colonial past before giving lessons to others.
The French "do not have the right to teach Turkey a history
lesson or call for Turkey to face its history," Ahmet Davutoglu
told a news conference.
Armenia, backed by many historians and world parliaments,
says some 1.5 million Armenians died during the upheaval that
accompanied World War I, and calls it genocide.
Ankara rejects the term genocide and says large numbers of
both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks were killed.
Sarkozy courted some 500,000 Armenian diaspora votes in
France and angered Turkey before his election in 2007 by backing
legislation to prosecute those who denied the deaths were
genocide. The measure was rejected by French lawmakers.
Sarkozy also visited energy-producing Azerbaijan, meeting
its president, Ilham Aliyev.
He urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their dispute
over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian-populated enclave in
Azerbaijan, which led to war as the Soviet Union collapsed two
Armenian-backed separatists wrested Nagorno-Karabakh from
Azeri control in a six-year conflict that killed 30,000 people
and drove 1 million from their homes before a ceasefire was
reached in 1994.
Exchanges of fire on the front lines persist and the nations
have failed to resolve the dispute despite mediation led by
France, Russia and the United States. As a result, high tension
persists in a strategic corridor for Caspian Sea energy transit.
Two Azeri soldiers and an Armenian were killed in a skirmish
on the ceasefire line on Wednesday.
The conflict prompted Turkey to close its border with
Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Muslim ally Azerbaijan, and
its refusal to term the Ottoman Empire killings genocide is now
the main obstacle to renewing diplomatic relations.
"The time has come to take the risk of peace," Sarkozy said
at a meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan.
"Armenians, Azeris and Turks: You must choose this path.
There is no other, it is the path of peace," he said.
(Additional reporting by Ibon Villelabeitia and by Margarita
Antidze in Tbilisi; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Steve
Gutterman; Editing by Mark Heinrich)