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Turkish National Agenda - February 26th-05th
The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the Armenian ‘genocide’ resolution on Thursday.
• Friday: The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday endorsed a resolution calling for Washington’s recognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire as “genocide.”Twenty-three of the panel’s 46 members voted for the resolution and 22 voted against it while one committee member declined to cast a vote.The move may jeopardize Turkey’s ties with both the United States and Armenia. Turkey condemned the vote labeling the 1915 killings of Armenians as “genocide” and recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations.
o “We condemn this resolution accusing Turkey of a crime that it has not committed,” the Turkish Prime Ministry said in a written statement.
o “Our Ambassador to Washington Namık Tan was recalled tonight to Ankara for consultations after the development,” said the statement, which came immediately after the U.S. panel passed the measure in a closer-than-expected vote.
• In Washington, Turkish lobbying deputies pushed against the resolution until the very last moment. Speaking to Turkish television channel NTV, opposition Republican People’s Party deputy Şükrü Elekdağ said, “The U.S. administration has left Turkey alone.” Suat Kınıklıoğlu of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, said the supporters of the measure did not expect such a close vote, claiming the outcome taught them a lesson.
o The nonbinding resolution now heads to a floor vote at the House of Representatives, where its prospects for passage are uncertain. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who supports the resolution, will decide if or when it will come to a floor vote.
o The resolution the committee endorsed calls on President Barack Obama to ensure that U.S. policy formally refers to the killings as “genocide” and to use that term when he delivers his annual message on the issue in April – something he avoided doing last year.
o Hours before the vote, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had spoken with the committee's chairman, Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, on Wednesday and indicated that such a vote would jeopardize reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia.
o Turkey has been warning that any House or Senate floor adoption of an Armenian “genocide” resolution would lead to a major and lasting deterioration in relations with the United States and sabotage a planned reconciliation process with Yerevan.
o Earlier, Turkish President Abdullah Gül urged Obama to use his influence to block the resolution, warning that its adoption would hurt ties between the two NATO allies. “Whatever the outcome is, Turkey will not be the loser. Others will lose from a negative outcome,” said Turkish Parliament Foreign Affairs
o Commission head Murat Mercan, one of a group of Turkish deputies who traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby against the resolution.
• Two separate groups of Turkish lawmakers are currently on a tour in Washington, D. C., lobbying against the genocide resolution. “The strategic partnership between Turkey and the US will be seriously harmed if the resolution is passed in Congress,” said Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Cüneyt Yüksel, one of the lawmakers currently in Washington.
• A delegation from the Turkish Parliament led by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Murat Mercan paid a visit to the US this past weekend to discourage the adoption of the so-called “Armenian genocide” resolution on March 4.
o The Turkish delegation will reportedly meet with American congressmen and other officials to urge them to vote against the Armenian genocide resolution. The meetings are also intended to warn officials that US-Turkish relations will be damaged if the resolution passes.
• Turkish Parliamentarians resume lobbying: Turkish Parliament Foreign Affairs Commission head Murat Mercan said that such a measure will be seen by the Turkish public as “inappropriate pressure on Turkey,” warning: “There will be an overwhelming public reaction and outcry.”
o Şükrü Elekdağ, former Turkish ambassador to the United States and an opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, member said the Armenian issue should not be allowed to have a detrimental effect on U.S.-Turkish relations. Mithat Melen, Istanbul deputy from the National Movement Party, or MHP, also said the passage of the resolution would not only be detrimental to the U.S.-Turkey and Turkey-Armenia relationships, but also would be very bad news for about 50,000 Armenian illegal workers, whom he said live in Istanbul.
o Meanwhile, Turkish Parliament U.S. Caucus head Suat Kınıklıoğlu, who led the second Turkish group, also drew attention to a possible chill in U.S.-Turkish ties and said the partnership between the two countries “should not be marred by events of almost 100 years ago.” He also said the passage of the resolution might “radicalize” an already sensitive debate within Turkey about the future of Turkish-Armenian relations.
o Noting the United States and Turkey have worked closely and constructively together on a wide range of international issues, Mercan said: “If the resolution passes the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this mutually beneficial cooperation will be put into immediate jeopardy. That outcome is good for neither Turkey nor the United States.”
o Responding to a question, Mercan said they have not talked to any officials from the U.S. administration yet, and said the place they like to be more involved is with the U.S. Congress, where the vote will be taken. Nevertheless, Mercan conceded that the U.S. administration’s role is always important and they still expect the U.S. administration take a greater role to stop the resolution.
o Turkish Parliament U.S. Caucus head Suat Kınıklıoğlu said the lobbying group sharpened its rhetoric during Wednesday’s meeting in Congress and said, “We told our counterparts that they are playing with fire. I asked them what their interest and benefit was to make an important ally like Turkey angry.”
• Obama on the Armenian Protocol: Obama said as a candidate that he believed the killings were genocide. A congressional resolution to that effect could alienate Turkey, a NATO ally and traditional friend of the United States that is crucial to US foreign policy goals.
o So far, however, the Obama administration has taken no public position on the measure. Aides to senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee say there has been no pressure against the resolution from the White House. The administration was informed ahead of time that the committee would be scheduling the vote, according to Lynne Weil, spokeswoman for the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.).
o Past US administrations have defeated similar resolutions through public cajoling about US national security interests and behind-the-scenes lobbying.
• Minutes prior to beginning: The Obama administration is urging Congress to hold off on a resolution declaring the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians as "genocide." Obama called President Abdullah Gül to urge quick passage of protocols between Armenia and Turkey.
• Turkey’s reaction to CBS 60 Minutes: The Federation of Turkish American Associations (FTAA) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) sent a letter to executives of the US CBS TV channel to show their reaction to the biased broadcasting of the channel.
o Also, Turks living in the United States have launched a campaign to protest the TV channel by letters, fax and e-mail messages.
o ATAA's President Ali Cinar said they would continue their campaign against the CBS until the TV channel apologized.
• US Congress on bill: As US congressmen prepare to vote this week on a new resolution recognizing Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish conservatives have called on Ankara to revise its policy of lobbying against such attempts and tell the US definitively that it does not care about the outcome of the vote.
o Labeling a resolution that would recognize as genocide the World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians as “the most urgent issue” in Turkish-US relations, a veteran US diplomat has warned that said resolution might eventually be adopted by the US Congress if US President Barack Obama doesn't intervene to prevent this from happening.
o Turkish Muslim imam Abdullah Antepli from Duke University delivered the opening prayer for the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, where the Armenian “genocide” bill was put to the vote in the Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
• Turkish Foreign Ministry on bill: The Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed “regret” on Monday over the fact a US House of Representatives committee will be called to vote on a resolution that would recognize the World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians as genocide, while voicing its expectation that the resolution would be rejected, saying the approval of the resolution would bring ongoing normalization efforts between Ankara and Yerevan to a “standstill.”
• Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu: “We have made our views on the incidents of 1915 very clear while talking with US dignitaries. Turkish-US relations are probably going through a process in which there is a crucial need for cooperation more than ever before. Whichever file you open in any corner of the world, you will notice that there is a crucial need for close cooperation between Turkey and the US, Davutoğlu said. We are in a period in which our close relations can have a (positive) impact on the Balkans, Middle East, Caucasus, G-20 and, surely, the United Nations. It is highly important that all involved take into serious consideration the Turkish-U.S relations and the relations' influence on global peace.” Davutoğlu said.
• PM Erdoğan: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan already cautioned both the US Congress and the US administration not to take a step that would undermine ongoing normalization efforts between Ankara and Yerevan. While speaking at a press conference on Sunday evening following a meeting of the Reform Monitoring Group (RİG) which he presided over, Erdoğan was asked whether Ankara has been in contact with Washington concerning the issue.
o Senior-level contact between Ankara and Washington has been constantly maintained regarding the issue, Erdoğan replied, while recalling that two separate parliamentary delegations departed for Washington on Sunday ahead of Thursday’s committee vote. A group from Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission led by the commission’s chairman, Murat Mercan, and some members of the Turkey-US Interparliamentary Friendship Group led by its chairman, Suat Kınıklıoğlu, will have talks with US officials and legislators during their visit, which will last until Friday.
• JINSA & other Jewish groups: Ambassador Namık Tan met with “the representatives of almost all Jewish lobbies and organizations in Washington” over the weekend, according to sources in the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. According to the same sources, Tan met with the representatives of “eight or 10 Jewish organizations,” including the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL; American Jewish Community, or AJC; and B'nai B'rith International. JINSA released a report titled, ‘"The Armenian Resolution Should be Opposed and Defeated.”
• Difference between US Congress in 2007 and now: This time, the situation may be more dangerous for Turkey, according an analysis of the lawmakers involved, which shows that the committee’s present composition is not in Ankara’s favor.
o Out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s current 46 members, 23 lawmakers, mostly Democrats, voted for a similar “genocide” recognition bill in 2007. Fifteen others, mostly Republicans, voted against it, two declined to vote and six are new members who will be voting on this matter for the first time. Out of these six new members, two are cosponsors of the new genocide resolution and will certainly vote for its endorsement.
o Compared to the situation in 2007, when the measure passed with a 26-21 vote, this time 25 lawmakers seem to be inclined to vote for the resolution and 15 others seem to be inclined to vote against it. The situation with the remaining six remains unclear.
• Current political fight in the U.S.: Firstly, many Republicans voted against the genocide resolution in 2007 under the influence of the Republican Bush administration. This time, amid the political fight between the Democratic Obama administration and the Republicans, some Republicans on the committee might be tempted to vote for the “genocide” measure just to put Obama in a difficult position in terms of ties with critical ally Turkey.
o Second, Clinton and Bush played the U.S. national security card to thwart the “genocide” bills of their times, and Obama has thus far not resorted to this measure at all.
o “Instead of following his predecessors Clinton and Bush in using the national-security argument against the ‘genocide’ recognition, President Obama last year tied his non-use of the word to a normalization process between Turkey and Armenia,” said Bülent Alirıza, the director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C.. “As that process is now stalled, Obama is in a difficult position, which the Armenian diaspora and the Armenian government now seem to be eager to exploit,” Alirıza added.
• March 3rd: Turkish President, Abdullah Gül calls Obama: Turkish President Abdullah Gül held a phone conversation with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama late Wednesday. Sources from the Turkish Presidency told the Anatolia news agency that President Gül and Obama exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues.
• If resolution passed: If the resolution passes the committee, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will decide if or when to bring it to a House floor vote. She is likely to hold a floor vote if she sees a majority of the 435 House members backing the resolution.
• Info on agreements signed between Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers: In October, a set of agreements under which Ankara and Yerevan would set up normal diplomatic relations and reopen their land border. But the normalization process is now faltering. The Turkey-Armenia accord needs to be ratified by the parliaments of the two neighbors before implementation, but there is no indication of when either nation would bring the deal to its parliament.
• Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s comments: “We are working very hard to assist Armenia and Turkey in their (reconciliation) efforts and, you know, we would like to continue to support that effort and not be diverted in any way at all,” Clinton said last Thursday. By saying “not be diverted in any way,” Clinton was apparently referring to Turkey's position that any U.S. congressional endorsement of the “genocide” resolution would effectively kill the Washington-backed normalization process with Armenia.
• Former U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage: Former senior U.S. official said he was disappointed about the Obama administration’s failure in not preventing a resolution calling the killings of Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire “genocide” before it goes to a U.S. House committee. He expects the voting will be a close call, echoing some Turkish lawmakers who are currently in Washington, D.C., to lobby against the resolution.
o “Turkish people should take a deep breath and remember that the resolution is a nonbinding one," he said. "And this vote is just at a committee level."
o When asked what he would expect to happen if the resolution were to pass, Armitage said, “Turkey should not respond in a vindictive manner.”
o Armitage also recalled his own and then Secretary of State Colin Powell's vigorous work to stop the resolution in the past: “It is disappointing to see the U.S. administration not using enough political muscle to stop the resolution being heard this time.”
o Armitage also said linking the resolution to the ratification of protocols signed by Turkey and Armenia in October is wrong and added it would definitely affect relations between Armenia and Turkey “in a negative way.”
o Meanwhile, a Turkish lawmaker who leads one of the Turkish delegations lobbying against the resolution in Washington said tensions were high during their meetings with some of the House representatives.
• The problem that lies at the root of the issue is the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey’s close friend and ally. Turkey first wants to see progress toward a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before opening its border with Armenia. And the Armenians are hinting no sign of this.
‘Sledgehammer’ & ‘Cage’ Investigations
• Feb. 26: Thirteen more military officers, including seven on active duty, were arrested last Thursday as part of a probe into an alleged coup plot dubbed Balyoz (Sledgehammer), bringing the total number of retired and active duty officers arrested in the case thus far to 20, including five admirals and three generals.
• Three senior retired Turkish military officers were freed by prosecutors last Thursday, in a move that could help avert confrontation between the country's ruling government and the armed forces.
o Turkey's prime minister vowed last Friday to put everyone who conspired against the country's democracy on trial, as the number of military officers charged and jailed for allegedly plotting a 2003 coup against his government rose to 31.
• Foregin observers on the recent developments in Turkey: Political analysts who dissected Turkey’s domestic and international policies at a meeting held on Capitol Hill on Thursday also evaluated recent developments regarding civilian-military relations in Turkey. Stressing that Turkey is “one of the most important countries in the world,” Graham Fuller, a historian at Simon Fraser University and a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) at the CIA, said many developing countries lack strong civil institutions. “The military was better equipped than any other institution,” he said while moderating the panel “A New Turkey: What Does it Mean for the Region and US?” at a Capitol Hill luncheon on Feb. 25 organized by the Texas-based Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians (TCAE).
o “In the process of democratization, these hands on power are slowly pulled away,” Fuller added. “Turkey happens to be well advanced in this process when we look at other states in the region.”
o Ömer Taşpınar, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at the National War College, said the “days of military coups are over” in Turkey, and there is a “new elite” who would like to “share the pie.”
• Turkey's prime minister met the head of the armed forces on Sunday, two days after the arrest of two retired generals over an alleged coup plot risked renewing tension between the government and the military.
• Two more high-ranking military officers were arrested on Sunday as part of an investigation into the Sledgehammer coup plot allegedly devised by the military to overthrow the government, bringing the total number of arrests to 35.
Turkish Armed Forces
• Generals who convened for a meeting at the General Staff last Tuesday submitted an 18-page file to government spokesperson Cemil Çiçek that included the armed forces' request for the introduction of “judicial immunity” for members of the military as part of an ongoing probe into a criminal organization.
Military / Defence
• The seven nations behind the A400M military transport and its manufacturer are finalizing a deal on the future of the largest joint military project in European history, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said Thursday.
• The first six unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) ordered from Israel by Ankara were delivered to Turkey on Friday following a delay of over two years. The remaining four UAV aircraft are scheduled to be delivered either in May or June.
• Backed by armed bodyguards, international oil executives have flocked to this southern Iraqi city to survey their potentially lucrative prizes: the fields that they hope will one day be pumping out dramatically greater amounts of cheap, plentiful crude.
• Calling Israel's decision to designate two shrines on Palestinian territory as Israeli national heritage sites a “provocative practice,” the Turkish capital has warned the Jewish state to refrain from “unilateral” moves that would impede efforts for the revival of the Middle East peace process.
• The United States should pack up and leave the Middle East and stay out of regional affairs, Iran’s president said last Thursday during a visit to Damascus that follows a string of US efforts to break up Syria’s 30-year alliance with Tehran.
• Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told congressional panels earlier last week that while Turkey shares a long border with Iran and has religious, commercial and cultural ties with that country, it opposes Iran’s aggressive policies.
• A powerful Greek-American lobby’s harsh criticism of the US ambassador to Turkey over his recent remarks on Turkey’s Cyprus policy was raised during questions over US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations during a hearing on foreign policy priorities in the fiscal year 2011 international affairs budget, last Wednesday.
• Turkey would be willing to withdraw its troops from Cyprus if a peace deal is reached between estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
• French petroleum giant Total has stated that it will be investing more than $100 million in Turkey to open new refueling stations throughout the country.
• Turkey’s leading fuel distribution company, Petrol Ofisi, has announced that it registered TL 14 billion ($9.2 billion) in revenue in 2009 while increasing its net profit by 185 percent over the previous year to TL 287 million.
• Turkey's Parliament on Thursday ratified an accord to build the European Union's flagship Nabucco gas pipeline, Anatolia news agency reported.
• The newly-appointed Turkish Ambassador to the United States Namık Tan submitted his credentials to the U.S. president Barack Obama on Wednesday.
• Güler Sabancı, chairwoman of one of Turkey’s biggest conglomerates, Sabancı Holding, has called for politicians to draft and pass a new constitution to strengthen human rights and democracy in the nation.
• General Electric Co (GE) will sell its $3.3 billion stake in Turkey’s Garanti Bank, GE Money sources said on Thursday, a move which could offer a rare chance to buy into Turkey’s resilient bank sector.
• Colin J. Williams replaced Mehmet Emin Karamehmet as President of Turkey's largest GSM operator-Turkcell.
• Turkey ranks second-worst in European unemployment behind Spain.
• Turkey has started work to establish a regional summit similar to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where many business and political leaders gather to find solutions to the problems facing the world.
• Turkish parliament enacted a bill shortening referendum period to 60 days from 120 days.