Bipartisan measure, H.J.Res.83, seeks to freeze proposed helicopter sale to increasingly unreliable ally
WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America joined Tuesday with a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives in seeking to block a proposed $111 million sale of U.S. arms to Turkey over Ankara’s increasingly belligerent actions against Armenia, Cyprus, and Israel.
“We join with friends of Armenia, Cyprus, Israel, and the Kurds – as well as with all those who respect human rights and seek a sustainable regional peace – in seeking to block arms sales to a government in Ankara that openly boasts of using all the military resources at its disposal to rain death upon Kurds – both within Turkey and inside the Kurdistan Regional Government, to threaten Armenia, menace Cyprus, and antagonize Israel,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.
“We are deeply concerned by Turkey’s increased saber rattling, its threats against Israel, its outlook toward the European Union, its occupation of
Cyprus and its unrelenting blockade of Armenia,” stated Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), upon introduction of the bill. “It appears as though our long-standing ally in Ankara is not only drifting toward confrontation with its friends and allies, but is also cozying up to some of our most entrenched enemies. The U.S. should be busy raising these very serious concerns with Turkey, rather than selling arms to them.”
Representatives Berkley and Engel further elaborate their concerns in a “Dear Colleague” letter urging support for H.J.Res.83. “While Turkey was late to distance itself from the nightmare in Syria and has worked to gloss over the dangers of the Iranian regime, it still refuses to apologize for the Armenian Genocide,” explained the resolution’s supporters. The complete text of the Dear Colleague is provided below.
The sale proposed by the Obama Administration late last month would include AH-1W Super Cobra Attack Helicopters, engines, spare parts, training equipment, technical documentation and support services. Under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act, the Administration must notify Congress 15 days before selling arms to a NATO ally such as Turkey, if the sale is $50 million or more. After 15 days, the sale can be finalized, unless Congress passes legislation prohibiting or modifying the proposed sale. The resolution introduced by Berkley and Engel would prohibit this sale. Cosponsors of the Berkley-Engel bill, H.J.Res.83, include Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Ed Royce (R-CA).
Kurdish and Hellenic American Groups Rally Support for H.J.Res.83
Greek, Cypriot and Kurdish American groups have been outspoken in urging support for the Berkley-Engel measure.
DC-based American Hellenic Institute Executive Director Nick Larigakis noted, “The flow of U.S. arms to Turkey only emboldens Turkey’s intransigent stance when it comes to finding a diplomatic settlement to the Cyprus issue and further encourages its bellicose threats against U.S. allies Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Armenia. AHI applauds the lawmakers’ effort to block this most recent proposed sale of U.S. arms to Turkey.”
In a November 7th letter to resolution’s lead authors, American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) chairman, Dr. Grossomanides writes, “Turkey’s recent increased levels of belligerent threats in the eastern Mediterranean directed at U.S. allies Cyprus, Israel, and Armenia, in addition to its threats to U.S. commercial interests in the region, are of great concern. Indeed any U.S. arms sales to Turkey sends the wrong message and can only serve to embolden Turkey’s threats or further entrench its intransigence on these issues of importance to us as American citizens”
The measure has also been welcomed the International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus” (PSEKA).
American Kurdish Information Network’s (AKIN) Kani Xulam explained, “What the region needs is peace and not instability; what the sale will do is to add to Turkey’s military arsenal and unfortunately contribute to its belligerency. As an office concerned with the plight of the Kurds in the Middle East, we ask the members of the United States Congress to block this sale for the sake of peace and stability.”
Below is the text of Dear Colleague Letter
Please join us in cosponsoring a resolution to disapprove of the recent U.S. arms sales to the Republic of Turkey. We are deeply concerned with the increasingly bellicose rhetoric and policies which the government of Turkey has adopted. Whether we are viewing Turkey’s outlook toward the European Union, its continuing occupation of Cyprus, or its aggressive posture toward Israel, it appears that our long-standing ally in Ankara is drifting toward confrontation with our closest friends and allies, while it cozies up to some of our entrenched enemies. This is the time for the United States to be raising our very serious concerns about Turkey, rather than selling arms to them.
In recent months, Turkey has expelled its Israeli Ambassador, threatened to use its navy against Israeli Defense Forces and strengthened its ties to Hamas, all because Israel refuses to apologize for its self-defensive actions against a Turkish-backed attempt to break Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza.
Turkey’s belligerence against Cyprus is also intensifying. Ankara stations more than 40,000 troops in northern Cyprus, possibly the most militarized occupation in the world. Again, while Turkey condemns Israel (even as it actively seeks a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians), it maintains its perpetual occupation of the Republic of Cyprus, a member-state of the United Nations.
Prime Minister Erdogan is also now threatening to freeze relations with our allies in the European Union. He said “if the Greek Cypriot side stalls negotiations and takes over the presidency of the European Union in July 2012, this means not only a deadlock on the island but also a blockage, a freezing point in Turkey-European relations.”
Turkey has followed with not-so-vague bellicose threats against Cyprus and Israel, which – in collaboration with a U.S. energy company – are seeking to develop newly-found natural gas reservoirs located under the Mediterranean Sea, between the two countries.
And, while Turkey was late to distance itself from the nightmare in Syria and has worked to gloss over the dangers of the Iranian regime, it still refuses to apologize for the Armenian genocide. In that vein, we also recall in May 2010 when Turkey worked to undermine international efforts to impose strong sanctions on Iran in the United Nations Security Council by offering a competing resolution. Fortunately, the Turkish gambit failed, but Ankara’s position as an ersatz ally was apparent.
As a NATO member, we would have expected Turkey to follow a different course on each and every one of these issues. At this point, we believe this is not the time for arms sales to Turkey, but rather an effort to reverse the increasingly confrontational approach of the Turkish government toward its neighbors.
If you would like to cosponsor this resolution, please contact Jeremy Kadden in Rep. Berkley’s office.
SHELLEY BERKLEY; ELIOT L. ENGEL; GUS M. BILIRAKIS; MICHAEL G. GRIMM; CAROLYN B. MALONEY; FRANK PALLONE, JR.