Turkey Changes Policy Accepts US Economic Aid

WASHINGTON–In sharp policy reversal–the Turkish government has announced that it will accept the $22 million in economic aid from the US that it had openly–and–at times–bitterly–rejected because of Congressional actions linking Turkish aid levels to that nation’s acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The decision was announced in an April 10 State Department letter written in response to a February 10 inquiry by Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.). In the letter–Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs Barbara Larkin wrote that the "Turkish Government has informed the Department that it will accept ESF [economic support funds] this year."

The full text of The State Department letter

"Turkey’s highly publicized refusal last June to accept US economic aid was simply the latest in a long line of exaggerated claims about the damage to US-Turkish relations that would result from openly and honestly addressing Turkey’s violations of basic standards of international conduct," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The Turkish government’s decision this week to quietly accept this assistance demonstrates–once again–that Turkey’s grim warnings are simply a bluff. Their protests turned out to be a hollow warning intended to intimidate US policy makers from speaking the truth about the Genocide or seeking to lift Turkey’s shameful blockade of US relief supplies to Armenia."

Turkish Ambassador Nuzhet Kandemir had rejected the $22 million economic assistance package during a hastily arranged press conference on the evening of June 5–1996 because of what he denounced as "two anti-Turkey amendmen’s" adopted earlier that day in Congress. The Radanovich/Bonior and Visclosky amendmen’s–which were adopted by overwhelming margins–sanctioned Turkey for its continued denial of the Armenian Genocide and blockade of Armenia–respectively. The Turkish Foreign Ministry reiterated the Government’s decision to reject the funds in a statement the following day–explaining that "Following the hostile amendmen’s adopted in Congress last night–Turkey has stated its decision to refrain from accepting US economic aid in letters to US Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich."

Earlier this year–Rep. Radanovich introduced legislation (H.R.500) to reappropriate the $22 million economic aid package rejected by Turkey toward agricultural development programs in Armenia. He noted during the introduction of the bill that "Amazingly–Turkey was given the support and was not asked to recognize the Genocide. All this despite their declaration to decline US economic aid–while countries such as Armenia were in dire need of financial support."

Text of State Dept. Letter to Rep. Radanovich

Dear Mr. Radanovich:

I am responding on behalf of Secretary Albright to your letter of February 10 on the Administration’s decision to extend Economic Support Funds (ESF) to Turkey.

The United States has enormous interests at stake in Turkey–both economic and political. One of the most important is to see Turkey continue to play an active and constructive role in resolving the conflicts in the Caucasus–particularly through the OSCE’s Minsk Group.

Based on these strong US interests–the Administration objected to the "genocide" amendment as a measure that would undermine Turkey’s continued support of the Minsk Group and would preclude any further unilateral Turkish actions to improve relations with Armenia. Turkey has undertaken significant unilateral actions along these lines–including reopening the air corridor to Armenia and offering to reopen the land border if the parties can agree on a statement of principles for resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

We have significant economic interests in Turkey–including billions of dollars of potential exports and investmen’s that US companies are pursuing. We have a strong interest in supporting structural economic reforms in Turkey–which will both strengthen a key ally and improve the business climate for US firms. Provision of ESF is one of the few measures the United States has to directly support these reforms. The Turkish Government has informed the Department that it will accept ESF this year. The Administration is strongly committed to offering Turkey this assistance.

I thank you for your letter–and would be pleased to respond to any further inquiries on this or any other matter you may have.

[Signed] Barbara Larkin Assistant Secretary Legislative Affairs

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