State Department Responds to Congressional Letter on Turkish Armenia Relations

WASHINGTON–DC –In a letter to Members of Congress–the State Department confirmed this week that Turkish-Armenian relations were discussed during Turkish Foreign Minister Gul’s recent working visit to Washington–DC–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

An August 4 letter from US Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul Kelly to Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone–reported that "Secretary Powell–during the Secretary’s July 24 working lunch with Foreign Minister Gul–did indeed raise with Minister Gul the need for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia." Kelly mentioned that "progress on Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is a top priority for us–and we will continue to press the issue with the highest levels of the Turkish and Armenian governmen’s at every opportunity."

"The first steps toward any meaningful Turkish-Armenian reconciliation–an issue that Assistant Secretary Kelly describes as a top priority for the State Department–are for the Turkish government to end its Armenian Genocide denial campaign–to fully acknowledge the Armenian Genocide–both domestically and internationally–and–to come to terms with its modern day responsibilities for its crimes against the Armenian nation," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The time–money–and energy the State Department devotes through the discredited Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission and the other instrumen’s it has created over the years in order to help Turkey avoid its responsibilities–would–in reality–be better spent pressing the Turkish government to take these steps."

The State Department’s letter comes in response to a Congressional letter cosigned by Representatives Pallone–Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–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) sent on the eve of Foreign Minister Gul’s visit to Washington–DC.

The following is the full text of the State Department response forwarded to Cong. Pallone:

"Thank you for your letter of July 23 asking that Secretary Powell address the importance of improvemen’s in Armenian-Turkish relations with Foreign Minister Gul during his visit to Washington.

Secretary Powell did indeed raise with Minister Gul the need for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia during the Secretary’s July 24 working lunch with FM Gul. They specifically addressed the issue of the opening of the land border. Minister Gul said that although the border is not officially open there has been an increase in traffic crossing it. He added that Turkey wanted to assist Armenia’s economic development. Under Secretary Grossman also stressed this issue in a separate meeting with FM Gul.

Minister Gul met with his Armenian counterpart–Vartan Oskanian–at a recent NATO conference in Madrid. Minister Oskanian praised the openness of that meeting and looked forward to further discussions with his Turkish counterpart. Mr. Gul indicated to Secretary Powell that the meeting was positive and that he is looking forward to meeting with Mr. Oskanian again in September during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Progress on Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is a top priority for us–and we will continue to press the issue with the highest levels of the Turkish and Armenian governmen’s at every opportunity.

We hope this information is helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions on this or any other matter."

The letter is signed by Paul V. Kelly–Assistant Secretary Legislative Affairs

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