Representatives Call on Clinton to Press Yilmaz to Lift Turkey’s Blockade of Armenia

* Pallone–Porter lead effort on eve of White House meeting with Turkish prime minister

WASHINGTON–Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) were joined Thursday by more than 20 of their House colleagues in urging President Clinton to advance a "stronger response to the pattern of Turkish behavior and human rights abuses that are in conflict with US policy and interests," reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In a Dec. 18 letter to the president–sent on the eve of his scheduled Dec. 19 White House meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz–23 US Representatives expressed specific concern about "the lack of progress the Administration has made in addressing Turkey’s hostile and misguided policies against the Republic of Armenia."

They noted–in particular–that "regretfully–the past use of waiver authority with respect to Administration enforcement of the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act may send the message to Turkey that this blockade is acceptable to the US government."

"The State Department’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ has clearly failed to modify Turkey’s destructive conduct," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "In addition to blockading Armenia–Turkey continues to provide offensive military hardware to Azerbaijan–is waging a genocidal war against the Kurds–and maintains its military occupation of Cyprus. Here in the United States–Turkey is expanding its campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. In Turkey–the government’s worsening human rights record is highlighted by increasing reports of torture and a world’s record for jailing journalists."

"Turkey’s recent rejection by the European Union–its alienation from its Middle East neighbors–and its growing domestic instability can be attributed–in large part–to a shameful and counter-productive policy of appeasement by US policy-makers–who–during the course of more than three decades–consistently failed to take meaningful steps to address Turkey’s destructive behavior."

Members joining Reps. Pallone and Porter in co-signing the letter to President Clinton were Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY)–Robert Andrews (D-NJ)–David Bonior (D-Mich.)–Jerry Costello (D-Ill.)–Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)–Barney Frank (D-Mass.)–Stephen Horn (R-Calif.)–Joseph Kennedy–II (D-Mass.)–Sander Levin (D-Mich.)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)– Edward Markey (D-Mass.)–James McGovern (D-Mass.)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Martin Meehan (D-Mass.)–James Moran (D-Va.)–George Radanovich (R-Calif.)–James Rogan (R-Calif.)–Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.)–Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)–Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Text of Congressional letter follows: December 18–1997 The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton The White House Washington–DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: We understand that you will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Turkey–Mesut Yilmaz–on December 19 in Washington. We are writing to urge a stronger response to the pattern of Turkish behavior and human rights abuses that are in conflict with US policy and interests.

We are specifically disturbed about the lack of progress the Administration has made in addressing Turkey’s hostile and misguided policies against the Republic of Armenia. Turkey has imposed a blockade against Armenia’since April of 1993 and refuses to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia. Turkey’s blockade of Armenia includes denying US and international humanitarian assistance from crossing its borders–a violation of US law–international human rights and humanitarian laws–OSCE commitmen’s to which Turkey is a signatory–and NATO’s own charter. Regrettably–the past use of waiver authority with respect to Administration enforcement of the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act may send the message to Turkey that this blockade is acceptable to the US government.

Turkey’s blockade must be lifted immediately and unconditionally. The development of open market economies–open democratic systems and the removal of all blockades and border closures in the countries of the South Caucasus will provide positive incentives for US and international private investment–increased trade with the West–and other forms of economic and political interactions with the rest of the world. By facilitating the lifting of the Turkish blockade–the United States will be playing a constructive role in assisting in the development of infrastructure necessary for communications–transportation–energy and trade on an East-West axis. The blockade of Armenia by Turkey precludes the near-universal agreement in Congress for forming a new ‘silk-road" linking the countries of the South Caucasus to the stable–democratic and market-oriented countries of the Euro-Atlantic community.

If there is to be a resolution of regional conflicts in the region and a reduction of tensions along borders–it is essential that Turkey move forthwith to lift this destructive blockade. We believe that the Administration should make clear to the Turkish government that the opening of its borders with Armenia must not be conditional on negotiations to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh. The Armenian government has repeatedly stated that it is ready to establish–without preconditions–diplomatic relations with Turkey. The Armenian government’s peaceful policies toward Turkey should be applauded by the Administration and be reciprocated by the government of Turkey.

Mr. President–your meeting with the Prime Minister is a very important opportunity to reaffirm US-Turkish ties and to secure modifications in Turkish behavior that comport with achieving peace and stability in a region that is very important to the national interests of the United States.

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