WASHINGTON—US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon on Wednesday defended Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threats earlier this week of deporting alleged illegal Armenian workers in Turkey if a Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide were to be approved.
“In my opinion, Prime Minister Erdogan only wanted to highlight that there are 100,000 Armenians living in Turkey illegally. I don’t believe he threatened to deport them from the country. Those are separate issues,” rationalized Gordon, at a press conference preceding a conference on US-Turkish relations at the Brookings Institute.
“Every country has an issue with illegal immigrants and approaches it according to its laws. That has no relation whatsoever with any vote in the United States or the House or Representatives. Let’s not search for a connection between the Congress’ activities and that issue,” said Gordon, adding that the US would like Erdogan to attend a nuclear security summit next month in Washington.
“Erdogan is invited. We have not yet received a formal reply as to who is going to represent Turkey. I would very much like for him to participate,” said Gordon.
Erdogan told the BBC’s Turkish language service on Tuesday that if necessary, Turkish authorities could deport Armenians living illegally in Turkey.
“There are 170,000 Armenians in my country, of which 70,000 are my citizens. We’re turning a blind eye to the other 100,000. However, tomorrow, if it becomes necessary, I would say to those 100,000, go back to your country. Why? Because they’re not my citizens; I’m not obliged to keep them in my country,” Erdogan was reported as saying.
During the actual Brooking Institute conference, Gordon reiterated Washington’s call for Armenia and Turkey to unconditionally adhere to the protocols process.
Gordon said President Barack Obama conveyed the same message to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, in a phone conversation earlier this month.
“We appreciate the effort that has been made so far and urge both countries to ratify the protocols without preconditions and as soon as possible, a point President Obama made on the phone to President Gul just two weeks ago,” he said.
Gordon also reaffirmed the Obama administration’s opposition to the Genocide resolution approved by U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 4. However, he denied earlier claims of a deal between Democratic Congressional leaders and the White House to block the measure.
“Congress is an independent body and they are going to do what they decide to do,” he said, according to The Associated Press.