Armenian Caucus Urges Powell to Press Turkey to Lift Armenian Blockade

CONGRESSIONAL LETTER COMES ON THE EVE OF HIS MEETING WITH TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER GUL

WASHINGTON–DC–As Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares to meet this week with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul–members of the Armenian Caucus sent him a letter urging him to place Turkey’s blockade of Armenia on their meeting’s agenda–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In a letter written on July 23–initiated by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–Representatives asked that Secretary Powell "again call upon Turkey to immediately cease its blockade against Armenia and normalize relations with its neighbor." Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY)–Mark Kirk (R-IL)–Nita Lowey (D-NY)–Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)–George Radanovich (R-CA)–Steven Rothman (D-NJ)–and Adam Schiff (D-CA) also signed the letter.

The letter notes the devastating effects of the ten-year Turkish blockade on the Armenian economy. Citing a State Department report released earlier this year–the signatories stated:

"The blockade continues to inflate Armenia’s transportation costs by 30-35 %–stifling its trade and economy. The report also mentioned that opening the border would catalyze commercial opportunities for Turkey and Armenia in the fields of energy–trade and tourism valued at $1 billion per year."

The ANCA was grateful for the leadership of Congressmen Knollenberg and Pallone in this matter. "We appreciate the continued leadership of Congressmen Knollenberg and Pallone in raising the awareness of the Administration regarding the ongoing and devastating impact of Turkey’s blockade of Armenia," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The time is long overdue for the Secretary to move beyond the State Department’s ten-year history of ineffective–’quiet’ diplomacy–and instead begin applying meaningful pressure on Turkey to bring an end to this clear violation of international law."

Foreign Minister Gul arrived in Washington–DC on Tuesday for a series of meetings with top Administration officials in an effort to repair the strained relations between the two nations following Turkey’s refusal to base US troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Administration officials say Minister Gul plans to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney–National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld.

According to Turkish press–Minister Gul also met with key House and Senate members–including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman and Ranking Democrat Thad Cochran (R-MS)–Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-SD) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). He also met with House of Representative members Tom Lantos (D-CA)–an outspoken denier of the Armenian Genocide–and Turkish Caucus chairman–Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL).

The Anadolu News Agency reports that–"the Congress members told Gul–regarding the efforts to accept the Armenian Genocide in Congress–that they were doing their best to stop that law and that they realized it would harm Turkish-US relations."

Minister Gul was accompanied in his meetings by former Congressman Bob Livingston–who receives $1.8 million a year to represent Turkish interests in Washington–DC.

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