Visiting Turkish Parliamentarians Offered Perspective on House Resolution

Vaşington Büyükelçiliği 01.03.2010

Resolution Will Derail Turkish-Armenian Normalization Process, Damage Relations with U.S., say Members of Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee

(March 1, 2010) A cross-party delegation from Turkey’s Grand National Assembly said in Washington today that a pending resolution in Congress on the complex history of the World War I will derail sensitive efforts to establish normalization between Turkey and Armenia and may setback Turkey’s strong strategic and economic alliance with the United States.

Passage by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 4 of H. Res. 252, a non-binding measure that focuses on tragic events involving Armenians and Ottoman Turks during World War I, “will be perceived by the Turkish public as undue pressure on Turkey,” said Murat Mercan, Chairman of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee and member of the ruling AKP. “There will be an overwhelming public reaction and outcry.”

The Parliamentarians will spend the next several days meeting with members of Congress, particularly those on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They will stress that passage of H. Res. 252, even at the committee level, will permanently damage a still-sensitive rapprochement process between Turkey and Armenia. Protocols that will normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia are presently before the parliaments of both countries for ratification.

The delegation also noted that the protocols take a sensible approach towards normalization and establish a framework for joint study of the shared history of both countries. The protocols will also enhance economic opportunities on both sides of the border, they added, and enable the essential process of improving Turkish-Armenian relations. All that, said Mr. Mercan, could be lost if the Congressional resolution advances.

According to another member of the delegation, Sukru Elekdag, who represents the opposition CHP in the parliament, sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is the former Turkish Ambassador to the United States, “The Armenian issue should not be allowed to have a detrimental effect on U.S.-Turkish relations.” Turkey, he pointed out, has been a critical boots-on-the-ground leader in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan and an indispensible partner in achieving the U.S. goal of a peaceful transition in Iraq.

“The partnership our two countries enjoy today should not be marred by events of almost 100 years ago,” added Suat Kiniklioglu, another AKP member of the Grand National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Vice President of the Turkey-USA Parliamentary Friendship Group. Also, H. Res. 252, Mr. Kiniklioglu said, might “radicalize” an already sensitive debate within Turkey about the future of Turkish-Armenian relations.

In April 2009, President Obama chose Turkey for his first official bilateral transatlantic visit. This alone spoke volumes about the importance President Obama places on relations between the United States and Turkey, which he has dubbed a “Model Partnership.” Turkey and the U.S. have stood shoulder to shoulder in enhancing security and stability in the Middle East and beyond, ensuring energy security, and tackling the threat of terrorism around the globe. The burgeoning U.S.-Turkish trade relationship – surpassing $12 billion per year – offers ever-greater benefits to American businesses and workers.

The parliamentarians added that the resolution conflicts with solid historical evidence. It ignores that the full record reveals human suffering on both Armenian and Turkish subjects of the Ottoman Empire as Armenian nationalists, siding with an invading Russian army, secretly armed and rose in rebellion, indiscriminately massacring the local population in eastern Anatolia.

Mr. Mercan noted that the U.S. and Turkey have worked closely and constructively together on a wide range of international issues. “If the resolution passes the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” he said, “this mutually beneficial cooperation will be put into immediate jeopardy. That outcome is good for neither Turkey nor the United States.”

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