Armenian Greek Americans Disappointed at President Bush’s Push to Get Turkey into EU

ANCA–AHI send letter to White House after Bush’s Istanbul speech praising Turkey’s treatment of minorities

WASHINGTON–DC (ANCA)–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) expressed their profound disappointment over recent remarks by President Bush praising Turkey’s treatment of minorities and calling for that nation’s acceptance in the European Union.

During his official visit to Istanbul–Turkey to participate in the NATO summit–President Bush repeatedly called for the European Union to support Turkey’s candidacy for membership. "Turkey is a strong–secular democracy–a majority Muslim society–and a close ally of free nations," Bush noted–and continued–"with 150 years of democratic and social reform–stands as a model to others–and as Europe’s bridge to the wider world."

ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and AHI President Gene Rossides–in a July 8 letter to the President–point out–"the reality is that Turkey is neither secular nor democratic and–if anything–represents a negative role model for the states of the region. Over the past one hundred and fifty years–successive Turkish governmen’s have been characterized by their violence toward their own citizens–their disdain for democracy–and their aggression against neighboring states. . . Significantly–during this period–Turkey has dealt with its minority populations by committing genocide against Armenia’s–massacring and driving Pontians and other Greeks from its shores–denying the existence of its Kurdish citizens–and restricting the rights of Christians to worship freely."

Responding to calls by President Bush for European leaders to endorse Turkish membership in the European Union–Rossides and Hachikian stated that "Turkey’s candidacy for this European institution does not enjoy the backing of our nation’s citizens–who recognize that the Turkish government falls far short of meeting even the most basic standards of democracy and human rights that we embrace as Americans. Nor does Turkey’s application have the support of Europeans–including European Greeks and Armenia’s–who clearly reject Turkey’s candidacy."

ANCA and AHI concerns about continued US calls for Turkish membership in the European Union are shared by ANCA affiliates across Europe–who have actively worked with activists in their respective countries urging European leaders to bar Turkey’s membership due to a range of issues–including significant human rights violations and Turkey’s failure to recognize the Armenian genocide. In 1987–the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide and to establish political dialogue with representatives of the Armenian people as a precondition for European Union membership.

In addition to the joint letter to President Bush–ANCA representatives attended an American Hellenic Institute sponsored forum on Capitol Hill last week regarding Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus. The event was titled "Cyprus: 30 Years Later–An Assessment of the Annan Plan and Where Do We Go From Here." Guest speakers at the forum included noted author and television commentator Christopher Hitchens–Congressional Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairman Michael Bilirakis (R-FL)–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) as well as Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA)–and Rob Andrews (D-NJ). ANCA Government Affairs Director Abraham Niziblian and Capital Gateway Program Director Arsineh Khachikian led a delegation of ANCA "Leo Sarkisian" Internship participants to the luncheon–which was attended by several dozen Congressional staff members and a broad range of Greek and Cypriot American activists.

ANCA/AHI letter to President Bush

July 8–2004

The Honorable George W. Bush

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue–NW

Washington–DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express the profound disappointment of our nation’s Greek and Armenian American communities over your remarks of June 29th forcefully advocating for Turkey’s membership in the European Union.

Turkey’s candidacy for this European institution does not enjoy the backing of our nation’s citizens–who recognize that the Turkish government falls far short of meeting even the most basic standards of democracy and human rights that we embrace as Americans. Nor does Turkey’s application have the support of Europeans–including European Greeks and Armenia’s–who clearly reject Turkey’s candidacy. Beyond the specific problems with Turkey’s eligibility–we also want to share with you our reservations about the propriety of a US President seeking to direct the internal decision-making of our European allies regarding the conduct of their diplomacy and multilateral affairs. Turkey’s membership is–ultimately–a European decision.

In your remarks–you argued that–"Turkey is a strong–secular democracy–a majority Muslim society–and a close ally of free nations." You added that Turkey "with 150 years of democratic and social reform–stands as a model to others–and as Europe’s bridge to the wider world." The reality is that Turkey is neither secular nor democratic and–if anything–represents a negative role model for the states of the region. Over the past one hundred and fifty years–successive Turkish governmen’s have been characterized by their violence toward their own citizens–their disdain for democracy–and their aggression against neighboring states. Turkey’s aggression against and occupation of 37% of Cyprus is now in its 30th year.

Significantly–during this period–Turkey has dealt with its minority populations by committing genocide against Armenia’s–massacring and driving Pontians and other Greeks from its shores–denying the existence of its Kurdish citizens–and restricting the rights of Christians to worship freely. Last April–the Turkish Education Minister Huseyin Celik issued a decree requiring that all Turkey’ school children–Greeks and Armenia’s included–be taught to deny the Armenian Genocide. As recently as this February–the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices documented that–"torture–beatings–and other abuses by security forces remained widespread" in Turkey.

Extending uncritical support to an unrepentant and unreformed Turkish government only encourages and enables Turkey’s continued refusal to respect international norms for responsible membership in the family of nations. Rather than turning a blind eye to Turkey’s serious failings–US interests and American values would be better served by bringing to bear the full pressure of our government to ensure that Turkey meets basic standards for domestic and international behavior.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. As we have noted to you in the past–we stand ready to meet with you to discuss these and other matters of concern to our communities.

Sincerely,

Gene Rossides–President

American Hellenic Institute

Kenneth V. Hachikian–Chairman

Armenian National Committee of America

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