ANCA Urges Scrutiny of Failed US-Turkey Policy

WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called on members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to closely scrutinize ten serious shortcomings in the Administration’s handling of the US-Turkey relationship, during the September 24th confirmation hearing for James Jeffrey to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.

In letters to panel Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) and other key Committee members, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian outlined the Administration’s failings, and encouraged strict scrutiny of the nominee in order to "ensure accountability for past errors, as well as to apply the lessons learned from these setbacks in charting a more productive and principled course for U.S.-Turkey relations."

Hachikian underscored that, "We are today, near the close of the Bush Administration’s eight years in office, at a meaningful milestone in our relationship with Turkey. This hearing provides an important opportunity both to look back over the challenges, the progress, and the setbacks of the past, as well as to look forward to approaches to develop our ties in ways that advance both our interests and our values in this vital region of the world."

Among the main failings listed in the letter was its strident attacks on growing bipartisan movement toward U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, including President Bush’s firing of Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, and the "sad public spectacle," in October of 2007, of the Administration caving in to Turkey’s threats against Congressional recognition of this crime against humanity.

Both members of the Barack Obama-Joe Biden presidential ticket serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are strong advocates of U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, each having spoken out forcefully against the denial of this crime.

The full text of the ANCA letters is provided below.

Dear Senator:

I am writing to share our concerns with you regarding President Bush’s nomination of a candidate to serve as our nation’s next Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey.

We are today, near the close of the Bush Administration’s eight years in office, at a meaningful milestone in our relationship with Turkey. This hearing provides an important opportunity both to look back over the challenges, the progress, and the setbacks of the past, as well as to look forward to approaches to develop our ties in ways that advance both our interests and our values in this vital region of the world.

Among the areas that hold the greatest level of concern for us, as Americans of Armenian heritage, are those that deal specifically with Armenia, as well as those with broader implications for U.S. diplomacy in the greater Middle East and Caspian regions. These include:

1) The Bush Administration’s failure, in early 2003, to secure Turkish cooperation in opening a vitally needed northern front against Iraq.

2) The Bush Administration’s tacit approval for successive invasions of northern Iraq that have threatened to destabilize the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

3) The Bush Administration’s lack of any meaningful response to Turkey’s increasingly close ties with Iran and Syria.

4) The Bush Administration’s contribution to the downward spiral of Turkish public favorable ratings for the United States, which are at 12% according to the Pew Research Center.

5) The Bush Administration’s firing, in 2005, of the well-respected U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, over the Turkish government’s objections to his truthful statemen’s about the Armenian Genocide.

6) The Bush Administration’s sad public spectacle, in October of 2007, of caving in to Turkey’s threats against the U.S. Congress’ recognizing a crime against humanity. (This capitulation was compounded by the decision of the President to send two of his Administration’s senior officials, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman and Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried, to Ankara to personally apologize for America for the House Foreign Affair Committee’s approval of this human rights legislation.)

7) The Bush Administration’s refusal to apply any meaningful pressure on Turkey to lift its illegal blockade of Armenia.

8) The Bush Administration’s failure to take any concrete steps to end Turkey’s closure of the Halki theological seminary.

9) The Bush Administration’s ill-advised efforts to legitimize the illegal Turkish occupation of Cyprus by, among other actions, facilitating U.S. and international access to illegal ports of entry in the northern parts of this sovereign island nation.

10) The Bush Administration’s shameful silence on one of the highest profile human rights cases in recent Turkish history, the prosecution and official Turkish government intimidation of journalist Hrant Dink, until after his assassination in January of 2007 on the streets of Istanbul.

This track record deserves close scrutiny, both to ensure accountability for past errors, as well as to apply the lessons learned from these setbacks in charting a more productive and principled course for U.S.-Turkey relations. We thank you for your consideration of our concerns on each of these points, look forward to your robust questioning of the President’s nominee, and, of course, to your sharing with us feedback on the nominee’s responses prior to the Committee vote on his confirmation.

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