Armenian And Hellenic Caucus Leaders Join Together in Opposing Missile Sale to Turkey

–Reps. Bilirakis–Pallone–Radanovich–and Maloney Warn that SLAM-ER Missile Transfer Will Undermine Cyprus Peace Process and Threaten Armenia

(WASHINGTON–DC)–The Co-Chairpersons of the Hellenic Caucus–Reps. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–were joined Thursday by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Armenian Genocide Resolution lead sponsor George Radanovich (R-CA) in calling on Congressional leaders to reexamine a controversial $162 million US missile sale to Turkey.

In letters addressed to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Armed Services and International Relations Committees–the four legislators voiced their "deep concern and opposition to the application currently before your Committee for the foreign military sale to Turkey of 50 AGM 84K Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and associated equipment and services."

Noting that Turkey has enforced an illegal blockade against Armenia for the last twelve years–provides support to Azerbaijan against Nagorno Karabagh–and refuses to normalize relations with Armenia–they stressed that–"there are no safeguards in place to ensure that the transfer of these advanced new weapons to Turkey will not be used to threaten Armenia." Commenting on the presence of more than 40,000 Turkish military troops in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus–the legislators argued that the sale would "exacerbate the already existing military imbalance over Cyprus," and "worsen the uneasy–insecure and disadvantaged position of the Republic of Cyprus in terms of its defense and weapons proliferation." They closed the letter by requesting a "thorough reexamination of all factors pertaining to the sale" of the missiles to Turkey.

"We join with our friends at the American Hellenic Institute in thanking Representatives Bilirakis–Pallone–Maloney–and Radanovich in calling for a careful review of this ill-advised and destabilizing arms sale to an already over-armed Turkish military," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "Neither US interests nor American values are served by providing advanced offensive weapons to a government that used US arms to invade Cyprus in 1974–transferred weapons to Azerbaijan during the Nagorno Karabagh conflict–regularly invades Greek airspace over the Aegean Sea–and has used American military equipment in committing human rights abuses against its own citizens."

The full text of the Congressional letter is provided below.

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We are writing to express our deep concern and opposition to the application currently before your Committee for the foreign military sale to Turkey of 50 AGM 84K Joint Standoff Land Attack Missiles – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and associated equipment and services.

Considering the presence of more than 40,000 Turkish military troops in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus–this particular sale – if materialized – will exacerbate the already existing military imbalance over Cyprus. It will worsen the uneasy–insecure and disadvantaged position of the Republic of Cyprus in terms of its defense and weapons proliferation.

We also believe that US approval of this sale will negatively influence the ongoing efforts of the Administration to encourage a negotiated settlement of the Cyprus question. Support for the sale could be perceived as adversely affecting our third-party role in helping to bring the interested parties together.

Turkey has also has enforced an illegal blockade against Armenia for the last twelve years–continues to provide support to Azerbaijan against Nagorno Karabagh–and refuses to normalize relations with Armenia. There are no safeguards in place to ensure that the transfer of these advanced new weapons to Turkey will not be used to threaten Armenia.

This potential sale sends the wrong political message at the wrong time to Turkey and the neighboring countries. In a time of delicate diplomatic balance by the United States in that region of the world–the sale of this particular weapon to Turkey runs the real danger of being seen by the other countries of concern as a politically insensitive move.

We therefore request a thorough reexamination of all factors pertaining to the sale of the cruise missiles to Turkey.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Michael Bilirakis
Co-Chair–Hellenic Caucus

Frank Pallone
Co-Chair–Armenian Caucus

Carolyn Maloney
Co-Chair–Hellenic Caucus

George Radanovich
Member–Armenian Caucus

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