Representatives Lead Drive to Enforce Corridor Act

Bipartisan group calls upon the President to suspend all US aid to Turkey until its blockade of Armenia has been lifted.

WASHINGTON-Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) have teamed up with Massachusetts Democrat Joseph Kennedy–II and New Jersey Republican Chris Smith in urging their colleagues to co-sign a letter to President Clinton calling for a suspension of US aid to Turkey until that country opens a land corridor for the transport of humanitarian aid to Armenia–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The effort calls for the enforcement of Section 620(I) of the Foreign Assistance Act–which denies US aid to any country which "prohibits or otherwise restricts–directly or indirectly– the transport of US humanitarian assistance." The measure–more commonly known as the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act–was introduced last Congress in the House by Rep. Smith and in the Senate by former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.)–and became permanent law last year.

"We would like to thank Congressman Pallone and his colleagues on the Armenian Issues Caucus for initiating this letter to the President," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA.

"The Administration must acknowledge that its ?quiet diplomacy’ with Turkey over the course of the past four years has failed and that the sanctions contained in the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act need to be strictly enforced," added Hamparian.

Turkey closed off its borders to Armenia in 1993–blocking the passage of basic humanitarian assistance such as heating fuel– medicine–and wheat shipmen’s to a country suffering some of the harshest winters in decades. Countries–including the United States–are now forced to use less reliable routes to ship humanitarian assistance–with only a portion of the goods arriving at their intended destinations. Though Turkish officials did open a single air corridor to Armenia in 1995–the high costs of shipping humanitarian assistance by air makes this option prohibitive.

In a letter to their colleagues–the Representatives pointed out that "To date–there has been no progress towards opening overland humanitarian corridors through Turkey despite promises from Ankara. Accordingly–Turkey remains in violation of Section 620(I) and US assistance to that country should he suspended without further delay." The full text of the letter follows.

We are writing to urge the suspension of United States assistance to the Government of Turkey–as provided for under Section 620(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961–given Ankara’s continued policies that prohibit the transport and delivery of vital US–humanitarian assistance to the neighboring Republic of Armenia through Turkish territory. Particularly harsh winter weather condition in the region make the need for action even that much more urgent.

Turkey closed its frontier with Armenia in April 1993– cutting off an important link with that vulnerable landlocked country. Despite repeated indications from Turkish officials– including Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ciller–that a border crossing would be opened with Armenia–the frontier remains closed. This situation only exacerbates the difficulties already faced by Armenia in light of the ongoing blockade imposed by Azerbaijan. While Turkey opened its airspace in 1995–the large quantities of humanitarian assistance Armenia needs can be economically transported only by land.

As a result–Armenia has been placed in a virtual stranglehold–given its dependence on the importation of critical supplies of fuel–food and other humanitarian assistance. Ankara’s prohibition on the transit of such shipmen’s through Turkish territory has forced Armenia to seek alternative and considerably less reliable routes. A further complication is the common practice of skimming a portion of the relief cargo in transit before it reaches Armenia.

Pervasive shortages of most basic commodities have taken a heavy toll on the Armenian people–particularly among the very young and the elderly. Small daily rations of bread are provided to the most vulnerable. Others spend an estimated 80 percent of their household income on food. Amid general deprivation–Armenia continues to struggle to support a considerable refugee population. Cases of gastrointestinal disease–tuberculosis– viral hepatitis and measles have increased as medicines remain in critically short supply.

To date–there has been no progress towards opening overland humanitarian corridors through Turkey despite promises from Ankara. Accordingly–Turkey remains in violation of Section 620(I) and US assistance to that country should be suspended without further delay–as required by law–unless the Government of Turkey ceases to block the transport or delivery of US humanitarian assistance to the Republic of Armenia.

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy–II
Rep. Christopher H. Smith
Rep. Frank Pallone–Jr.
Rep. John Edward Porter

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