Michigan Representative Challenges Pro-Turkish Advocates on Panel

October 1, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC – Michigan Republican Thadeus McCotter questioned a pro-Turkish panel of witnesses testifying before a key House Subcommittee today about Turkey’s ongoing obstruction of Armenia-Turkey relations, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The House International Relations Subcommittee on Europe, chaired by Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE), held the hearing on “Turkey’s Future Direction and U.S.-Turkey Relations,” which featured testimony from Soner Cagaptay, Soref Fellow and Coordinator, Turkish Research Program, The Washington Institute; Bulent Aliriza, Director, Turkey Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Sedat Ergin, Senior Editor, Hurriyet Daily; and, The Honorable Mark Parris, Senior Public Policy Advisor, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.

In response to a request from Rep. McCotter that the witnesses describe the current state of Armenian-Turkish relations, Ergin read a page from the Turkish government’s genocide denial playbook, sidestepping the reality of the Armenian Genocide and instead welcoming talk of the creation of a committee of historians to examine “historical facts.” Dismissing the Armenian Genocide as a “psychological impediment,” Ergin argued that Armenia’s actions will determine the future of Turkish-Armenian relations. “I think they [Armenia] have two options – either they engage in good relations with Turkey, they look to the future, and the future of Armenia is no longer held hostage by the burden of history, or they continue to press the claims of genocide, and the border between Turkey and Armenia will always be a border of tension. But, in my view, if this committee can be formed, one of the psychological impediments to building relations between Turkey and Armenia probably can be overcome.”

Aliriza added that Turkey-Armenia relations are primarily governed by Turkey’s relationship with Azerbaijan. “There is also the fact that Turkey has a special relationship with Azerbaijan and the dynamics of the trend and relationship between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan has effectively given Azerbaijan veto over Turkey’s openness toward Armenia, unfortunately, until the Karabagh issue has been resolved,” explained the Senior Associate from CSIS.

Cagaptay argued that there is room for dialogue between Turkey and Armenia, making reference to a recent visit between Turkish Foreign Ministry official Ecvet Tezcan with several Armenian American organizations. These meetings, which the ANCA criticized at the time as a ploy by Turkey to derail progress toward the adoption of the Genocide Resolution before Congress, were later cited by senior Turkish officials, including Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Amb. Ugur Ziyal, as a justification for opposition to this legislation.

Rep. McCotter, clearly exacerbated with the witness responses, asked, “Just to make sure I am clear on this: So the status really is that Turkey is a passive participant, according to what I heard, in its relations with Armenia. That if they [Armenia] unburden themselves of the past – which I find fascinating – if they unburden themselves of the past, if they put aside claims to any part of Anatolia, then maybe Azerbaijan won’t veto them having an open border with the Turkish Government. Is that pretty much a synopsis of what I just heard?”

The witnesses evaded the Congressman’s follow-up question regarding what “affirmatively the Turkish government can do in terms of their relations with Armenia to help improve them.”

Following Rep. McCotter’s exchange with the witnesses, New York Democrat Elliot Engel questioned the panel regarding Turkey’s nineteen-year military occupation of Cyprus, asking plainly, ”why won’t Turkey get out of Cyprus.”

Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also submitted a statement for the hearing record.

Another point of interest was the statement by Ambassador Parris conceding that while Turkey remains a “strategic” ally for the U.S., it no longer holds the “essential” position it held during the Cold War and the reign of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Also of note was Chairman Bereuter’s unexpected and unsubstantiated charge that Armenia represents a threat to Turkey, along with Iran, Syria, Iraq, Greece, and the Kurds.

“We very much appreciate Congressman McCotter’s line of questions, which really highlighted the moral bankruptcy of the Turkish government, and its apologists, in accusing the victims – in this case, the victims of the most serious of all crimes – of being an ‘impediment,’ to progress and, even worse, placing the burden of reconciliation not on the unrepentant perpetrator but instead upon the shoulders of the injured party,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “The Alice in Wonderland quality of the responses to the Congressman’s questions was the inevitable product of an unbalanced panel of witnesses, whose remarks amounted to little more than a recitation of the latest ‘spin,’ cover-ups and excuses being offered up by Turkey’s well paid lobbyists – including Bob Livingston and the Harbour Group. Neither the members of the Subcommittee nor the general public are served, in any meaningful way, by such one-sided rhetoric.”

Last month, the ANCA expressed concern about the lack of balance of the slate of witnesses appearing at today’s Subcommittee hearing. In a September 11th letter to Chairman Bereuter, the ANCA explained that:

“No one on the panel, in our view, is likely to offer a
critical review of U.S.-Turkish relations, much less suggest a
fundamental re-examination of our ties to a
nation that:

* Refused to allow U.S. forces to open a northern front
against Iraq, an action that, according to many members of
Congress, cost American lives;

* Is seeking $8.5 billion in U.S. loans and is the single
largest debtor to international financial institutions, yet
has refused, to date, to agree to offer troops to support
U.S. operations in Iraq;

* Denies the Armenian Genocide, continues to occupy
Cyprus, denies basic rights to its Kurdish population,
restricts the rights of Christian communities, and has
among the world’s worst human rights records.”


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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