Former Congressmen Sign Deal to Push Turkish Issues

WASHINGTON–Former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston has teamed up with retired House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon and New York Congressman Stephen "the Congressman from Istanbul" Solarz to advance Turkish interests in the US Congress–reports Congress Daily.

The trio have signed a $1.8 million a year contract to assist Turkey in its efforts to purchase $1 billion in US attack helicopters and to polish Turkey’s abysmal human rights record–according to the February 2nd publication.

Livingston–Solomon and Solarz are familiar names for Armenian Americans. Each has distinguished himself as a leading opponent of Armenian American efforts to secure official recognition of the Armenian Genocide–lift the Turkish and Azeri blockades of Armenia–and defend Nagorno Karabakh’s right to self-determination.

"It is not surprising that these three individuals–who – as US representatives–advanced Turkey’s interests–will now – as private citizens–profit financially from advancing the Turkish government’s agenda in our nation’s capital," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA.

"They will continue – at a significantly higher pay-grade – the work they started in Congress – denying the Armenian Genocide–defending Turkey’s blockade of US humanitarian aid to Armenia–justifying Turkey’s military occupation of Cyprus–covering up Turkey’s genocidal campaign against the Kurds–and explaining away Turkey’s increasing torture and abuse of human rights–including growing restrictions against Christian communities," he added.

In September of 1998–Livingston and Solomon spearheaded a powerful–but ultimately unsuccessful–campaign to repeal section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which restricts US assistance to the government of Azerbaijan until that country lifts its ongoing blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Livingston–in particular–exhibited an aggressive style – characterized by flamboyant outbursts and sharp attacks on Armenian American participation in the political process–as well as hostile–frequently offensive–behavior toward Armenia’s diplomats in the United States. Despite strong backing from the Azeri and Turkish governmen’s–oil industry lobbyists representing 14 oil companies–and the State Department’s legislative affairs department–the Livingston-Solomon campaign failed–with House members voting in support of maintaining the Azerbaijan aid ban by a vote of 231 to 182.

Rep. Stephen Solarz–the self-proclaimed "Congressman from Istanbul" spearheaded Congressional opposition to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide throughout his career as a House member from New York. He was defeated at the polls in 1992–with the help of a national Armenian American effort to end his tenure in Congress. Other anti-Armenian members of Congress who have been defeated with the help of Armenian Americans include Jim Bunn (R-Ore.) and Greg Laughlin (R-Texas)–who now lobbies for Turkey as part of the firm of Patton Boggs. In a 1995 speech on the House floor–Laughlin described himself as the "voice of the Turks."

The text of the February 2 Congress Daily article follows:

Turkey Signs Up Big Guns In DC

To polish its image in Washington and help facilitate military sales–the Turkish government has hired three former members of Congress to represent its interests in the United States–National Journal reports Friday.

The new lobbying team will be led by former House Appropriations Chairman Livingston–who now runs the Livingston Group. In addition–the effort will be assisted by former House Rules Chairman Solomon–who heads the Solomon Group–and former Rep. Stephen Solarz–D-NY–now a senior counselor at APCO Associates.

The bipartisan trio will earn $1.8 million this year for their services. They will focus on issues ranging from Turkey’s interest in buying about $1 billion worth of attack helicopters to improving the perception of Turkey with members of Congress and the public. Turkey’s image has been tarnished in recent years by the country’s crackdown against Kurdish rebels.

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