Congressional Letter Comes on the Eve of his Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Gul

July 24, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC – As Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to meet this week with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, members of the Armenian Caucus fired off a letter urging him to place Turkey’s blockade of Armenia on the agenda of their talks, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In a July 23rd letter, initiated by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Representatives asked that Secretary Powell, “again call upon Turkey to immediately cease its blockade against Armenia and normalize relations with its neighbor.” Joining the Co-Chairs in cosigning the letter were Representatives 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).

The letter notes the devastating effects of the ten-year Turkish blockade on the Armenian economy. Citing a State Department report released earlier this year, the signatories state that:

“The blockade continues to inflate Armenia’s transportation costs by 30-35 percent, stifling its trade and economy. This reports also stated that opening the border would catalyze commercial opportunities for Turkey and Armenia in the fields of energy, trade and tourism valued at $1 billion per year.”

“We appreciate the continued leadership of Congressmen Knollenberg and Pallone in raising the awareness of the Administration regarding the ongoing and devastating impact of Turkey’s blockade of Armenia,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “The time is long overdue for the Secretary to move beyond the State Department’s ten-year history of ineffective ‘quiet diplomacy,’ and instead to begin applying meaningful pressure upon Turkey to bring an end to this clear violation of international law.”

Foreign Minister Gul arrived in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, July 22nd, for a series of high-level meetings with top Administration officials in an effort to repair the strained relations between the two nations following Turkey’s refusal to base U.S. troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Administration officials on Minister Gul’s agenda include Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld.

According to Turkish press accounts, Minister Gul also met with key House and Senate members, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman and Ranking Democrat Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Byron Dorgan (D-SD) and Senate Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Meetings in the House of Representatives included Turkish Caucus chairman, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), an outspoken denier of the Armenian Genocide.

The Anadolu News agency reports that, “the Congress members told Gul regarding the efforts of acceptation of Armenian genocide allegations in Congress that they were doing their best to stop that law and they were aware of that it would harm Turkish-U.S. relations.”

Minister Gul was accompanied at his meetings by former Congressman Bob Livingston, who is on retainer for $1.8 million a year to represent Turkish interests in Washington, DC.

The full text of the Congressional letter to Secretary Powell is provided below.



Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

July 23, 2003

The Honorable Colin L. Powell
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

It is our understanding that you will be meeting with Turkish
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on July 24. We are writing to urge
you to again call upon Turkey to immediately cease its blockade
against Armenia and normalize relations with its neighbor. As
stated by your Administration, improved Armenian-Turkish relations
are in the best interest of the United States, Turkey and Armenia.

As you are aware, Turkey has imposed a blockade against Armenia
since April of 1993. At the time, Armenia was still recovering
from a devastating earthquake and experienced a severe energy
crisis in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. Armenia relied
heavily on vital grain and kerosene shipments from the United
States. By imposing a blockade against its neighbor, Turkey
assisted Azerbaijan in its war against Karabakh’s Armenians.

Turkey’s blockade of Armenia includes denying U.S. and
international humanitarian assistance from crossing its borders, a
violation of U.S. law, international human rights and humanitarian
standards, and Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE)
commitments to which Turkey is a signatory. Organizations such as
the European Union (EU) have repeatedly called on Turkey to lift
its blockade against Armenia. The EU, in particular, has made
normalizations of Armenian-Turkish relations a pre-condition for
Turkey’s accession to the organization. Turkey, along with
Azerbaijan, are the only Council of Europe (CE) states which are
engaged in a blockade against a fellow CE state.

Earlier this year, a State Department report estimated that the
blockade continues to inflate Armenia’s transportation costs by 30-
35 percent, stifling its trade and economy. This reports also
stated that opening the border would catalyze commercial
opportunities for Turkey and Armenia in the fields of energy, trade
and tourism valued at $1 billion per year.

For these reasons, Turkey’s blockade must be lifted immediately and
unconditionally. The development of free-market economies, open
democratic systems and removals of all blockades and border
closures in and adjacent to the nations of the South Caucasus will
provide positive incentives for U.S. private investment, increased
trade with the West, and other forms of economic and political
interactions with the rest of the global community. By
facilitating the lifting of the Turkish blockade, the United States
will be playing a constructive role in continuing the development
of infrastructure necessary for regional communications,
transportation, energy and trade on an East-West axis.

President Bush has stated that he looks forward to “Turkey
restoring economic, political, and cultural links with Armenia.”
Both your and previous administrations have continually urged the
government of Turkey to reopen the border for aid shipments and to
normalize relations with Armenia. In your meeting with Foreign
Minister Gul in April of this year, your reiterated this
longstanding position.

If there is to be a resolution of regional conflicts in the region
and a reduction of tensions along borders, it is essential that
Turkey move forthwith to lift this destructive blockade. The
Armenian government has repeatedly stated that it is ready to
establish, without preconditions, diplomatic relations with Turkey.
We also believe that the Administration should continue to impress
upon the Turkish government that the opening of its border with
Armenia must note be conditional on negotiations to resolve the
conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.

Your meeting with Foreign Minster Gul represents an important
opportunity to reaffirm U.S.-Turkish ties and to secure
modifications in Turkish behavior that comport with achieving
regional peace and stability.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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