Influential committee chairman warns administration that the sale would "encounter significant opposition in the Congress."
WASHINGTON-Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY)–the chairman of the influential House International Relations Committee–announced yesterday that he objects to a proposed $170 million sale of advanced Seahawk helicopters to Turkey–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
In a January 30 letter to newly appointed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright–Chairman Gilman urged the Administration to "reconsider sending official notification of such approval to the Congress in view of the recent escalation in tensions between Cyprus–Greece and Turkey arising from Turkey’s bellicose response to the proposed sale by Russia of surface-to-air missiles to Cyprus."
He added that–in his view–"State Department approval of a Seahawk sale at the current time would encounter significant opposition in the Congress. I do not think this transaction is worth the turmoil it would create in our currently troublesome relations with the government of Turkey. I would therefore respectfully request that you do not move forward with this sale at this time."
"We share Chairman Gilman’s reservations concerning this sale and echo his call upon the Secretary of State to block the transfer of these advanced weapons–particularly given Turkey’s record of using US supplied weapons in attacks against its own citizens and neighboring states," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "Based on Chairman Gilman’s remarks–as well as our own survey of members serving on the relevant oversight committees–we are confident that this proposal would face significant opposition within Congress."
Congressional Letters Against Sale Being Sent to President Clinton
Congressional letters to President Clinton in opposition to the sale are currently being circulated for signatures in the Senate–by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)–and in the House–by Representatives Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.)–Carolyn Maloney (D- NY)–Gary Ackerman (D-NY)–and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). The letter states that the "State Department should object to this sale–particularly because it sends offensive attack helicopters with air-to-surface missiles to an over-armed Turkey."
The ANCA encourages Armenian- Americans to contact their members of Congress–by calling the Congressional switch-board at (202) 225-3121–and urge them to sign these Congressional letters. Armenian-Americans are also urged to thank Chairman Gilman for his continued leadership in promoting responsible arms sale policy toward Turkey.
He can be reached directly by calling (202) 225-5021 or by writing to: The Hon. Ben Gilman–US House of Representatives– Washington–DC–20515.
Seahawks Purchase Part of 25-Year–$150 Billion Turkish Arms Build-Up
According to reports this week by Agence France Presse and the Xinhua news agency–Turkish sources have also announced their intention to purchase between three and six airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) aircraft–worth between 500 million dollars and one billion dollars.
Officials from the general staff of the Turkish armed forces were quoted in these reports as saying that this purchase will be part of a 25 year–$150 billion arms build-up. These plans include the spending of $60 billion on ground forces–$25 billion on naval forces–and $65 billion on air forces–and would involve the purchase of over 640 cargo and personnel aircraft–800 military aircraft–10 naval frigates–and 2,000 battle tanks.
Defense News–a leading defense industry publication– reported on January 20 that the proposed Seahawk sale "represents a thaw in the US-Turkish spat over a canceled deal for US SuperCobra attack helicopters." The SuperCobra deal was blocked last year as a result of heavy Congressional pressure and Administration reservations over Turkey’s human rights record. Yalcin Burcak–the head of the Turkish government’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries–was quoted as saying that "We have reached an agreement on the Seahawks and expect to sign a contract with Sikorsky Aircraft in February." Andy Evans–an official for Sikorsky’s parent company United Technologies–told Defense News that he did not anticipate any problems regarding Congressional approval.