Radanovich Menendez Urge Albright to Halt Controversial Helicopter Deal With Turkey

*Join Growing Campaign to Stop US Arms Deal with Turkish Military

WASHINGTON–Citing Turkey’s worsening human rights record–California Republican George Radanovich urged Secretary of State Madeleine Albright this week to refuse an export license for a potential $4 billion sale of 145 Bell-Textron attack helicopters to Turkey–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)–Member of the House International Relations Committee–and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade–Monday sent a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright requesting her to deny the export license application for the sale of $4 billion in attack helicopters to Turkey.

In a March 20 letter to the Secretary of State–Radanovich argued forcefully against the sale–noting that in 1998 "the State Department suggested to top US human rights groups that approval of an export license for these attack helicopters to Turkey would be contingent on Turkey meeting a series of eight human rights benchmarks." These benchmarks were based on priorities set by then Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz during a December 1997 meeting with President Clinton. Radanovich reminded Secretary Albright that according to Amnesty International–and "based on the State Department’s annual human rights report–Turkey has failed to meet these human rights benchmarks."

Radanovich joins a growing campaign of organizations and elected officials who have expressed their opposition to the sale of attack helicopters to Turkey. In addition to Amnesty International and the ANCA–the American Hellenic Institute and American Kurdish Information Network have voiced serious concerns about the sale’s negative impact on regional stability and the likelihood that these weapons will be used by the Turkish military to commit human rights violations.

In a statement on the floor of the US House last week–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone remarked that "the neighboring country that has suffered the most from the Turkish Government’s aggressive militaristic and nationalistic posture is Armenia. In the years between 1915 and 1923–Turkey perpetrated Genocide against the Armenian people–resulting in 1.5 million innocent Armenian civilians being murdered." He added that–"in the year 2000–Turkey continues to maintain an illegal blockade of its border with Armenia–which has prevented the delivery of vitally needed supplies to Armenia."

In his letter to Albright–Menendez wrote–"As a Member of the House International Relations Committee–I am writing to ask you to deny the export license application for the sale of $4 billion in attack helicopters to Turkey."

Menendez added–"In 1998–the State Department suggested to US human rights groups that approval of an export license for these attack helicopters would be contingent on Turkey meeting a series of eight human rights benchmarks. These benchmarks were based on priorities articulated by Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in his meeting with President Clinton in December of 1997."

"Turkey’s progress in correcting its abominable human rights record has been negligible. The State Department’s recently released human rights report recognizes the continuing practice by Turkey’s security forces of beating and torturing individuals. Moreover–your Department–as well as human rights organizations like Amnesty International–have documented Turkey’s use of helicopters to attack Kurdish villages and to transport troops to Kurdish areas where troops have tortured and killed civilians," the letter continued.

"Turkey’s failure to make concrete and significant progress on human rights benchmarks should not be rewarded by the sale of 145 attack helicopters. I urge you to deny the export license and send a message to Ankara that the US intends to hold Turkey to its commitment to meet the human rights benchmarks that it agreed to," concluded Menendez.

Turkey is set to make a decision between three offers for the $4 billion helicopter purchase by April 8. In addition to Bell-Textron–two other potential sources are being considered: Italy’s Agusta and a joint venture between Israeli Aircraft Industries and Russia’s Kamov. Press accounts indicate a preference on the part of the Turkish military for the US helicopters because most of its current fleet is from Bell-Textron.

In a related matter–Germany’s Green Party last week spoke out against a potential $7 billion tank sale to Turkey–citing Turkey’s worsening human rights record and its ongoing campaign against its Kurdish minority. The issue became a topic of heated debate at the Greens party Congress in Karlsruhe Germany–where the Greens–who are a junior partner in Germany’s ruling coalition along with the Social Democrats–passed a resolution condemning the impending deal.

German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann is one of five companies currently bidding for joint production of 1000 tanks to be added to Turkey’s arsenal. Other companies under consideration include US arms dealer General Dynamics–GIAT of France–Ukrspetseksport from Ukraine–and Iveco and Auto Breda from Italy. Turkey is set make a decision on the tender by July.

Responding to human rights concerns raised by the German government–Turkey’s Defense Minister Turkey Sabahattin Cakmakoglu publicly rejected any attempts to restrict use of the armament.

According to the Anatolia news agency–Cakmakoglu stated that "Turkey would not be told when or where it could use the tanks."

For more information about the proposed attack helicopter deal with Turkey–visit www.anca.org.

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