AHI Sends Letter to Members of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Regarding Confirmation Hearings for New US Amb. to Turkey

WASHINGTON, DC— On November 9, 2005, AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis sent a letter to the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding today’s confirmation hearing, for the new U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Ross L. Wilson. Please find the letter below.

November 9, 2005

Dear Senator:

On behalf of our nation-wide membership, I write to request that as you convene this Wednesday, November 9, 2005, to conduct confirmation hearings for the newly nominated U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Ross L. Wilson, you review Turkey’s record as it relates to the rule of law, human rights violations, religious freedom, and U.S. interests.

Dramatically changed circumstances since the end of the Cold War and Turkey’s refusal on March 1, 2003 to allow U.S. troops to use bases in Turkey to open a northern front against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship when it counted most, its “extortion in the name of alliance” negotiating tactics to get $6 billion more for its cooperation over the $26 billion offered, warrant a wholesale review of the U.S. policy toward Turkey.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on March 20, 2005, the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in two TV appearances, blamed Turkey’s refusal to permit the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division to use its territory to open a northern front against Iraq with preventing the capture or killing of future insurgents hardest and reducing their number. If that had happened, he said “the insurgency today would be less.” It follows that if that had happened fewer American soldiers would have been killed by the insurgents.

The views of Turkey's alleged importance have been propagated to the detriment of U.S. interests by a handful of U.S. officials, think tank advocates and Turkey's paid U.S. foreign agents registered with the Department of Justice.

Leading the pack has been registered foreign agents for Turkey, former Congressmen Bob Livingston (R- LA) and Stephen Solarz (D-NY) who are paid $1.8 million annually by Turkey.

The U.S.’s successful prosecution of the war against Iraq without access from Turkey proved Turkey’s marginality as a strategic military resource in the region. Over the years, other actions have raised considerable doubt over Turkey's reliability as a strategic ally. Today, the U.S. has access to alternative military facilities in the region including countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Afghanistan and in Iraq itself.

Turkey’s illegal 1974 invasion of the sovereign Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish army’s continuing illegal occupation of 37.3 percent of the island – accomplished with the unlawful use of U.S. arms – are violations of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, and the North Atlantic Treaty.

The Turkish occupation violates several UN resolutions, such as the unanimous UN General Assembly Resolution 3212, passed on November 1, 1974, which called for the removal of all foreign military forces. It also violates Security Council Resolutions, including Resolution 365, passed on December 13, 1974 to endorse Resolution 3212. Furthermore, the continued presence of Turkish troops and unauthorized Turkish settlers in the region is illegal.

The transformation of Turkey into a politically stable, fully democratic, and economically sound nation, whether or not she completes her EU accession, is in the interests not only of the people of Turkey, but also of Turkey’s neighbors (especially Greece and Cyprus) and of the U.S.

Achieving the goals of genuine democratic freedoms, political stability and economic progress, whether through EU accession negotiations or otherwise, will require fundamental changes in Turkey’s governmental institutions. The U.S. should be pressing for fundamental changes now.

Such changes include reducing the military’s traditionally pervasive role in all aspects of national life and placing it under civilian control. Turkey must also reverse its historic intransigence to a reasonable and just solution to the Cyprus problem, must conform to longstanding international agreements concerning Aegean Sea boundaries, and must significantly improve its human rights record.

Regarding religious freedoms, Turkey’s restrictions on the Ecumenical Patriarchate have been suffocating.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in North America led a panel discussion at the U.S. Helsinki Commission on March 16, 2005 which presented “a clear picture of how religious human rights violations by the Turkish government have been working to exterminate the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Christian community in that country.” The panel briefing “highlighted Turkey’s systemic efforts to undermine the Orthodox Church, violating numerous international treaties to which it has agreed.”

U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) stated: “The concern of this Commission in the protection of religious rights and freedoms. Turkey’s treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate violates its obligations under international human rights law.” Mr. Smith blamed Turkey for systematically attempting to prevent the activities of the Patriarchate by disallowing the opening of the Halki Theological School forcibly closed in 1971, destroying churches by creating hurdles preventing their repair, denying the Patriarchate the opportunity to purchase and or sell property and not recognizing the Patriarchate’s “Ecumenical” status, in effect, denying its universal status.

Archbishop Demetrios and Dr. Anthony Limberakis “detailed the severe restrictions on property ownership which have allowed the government to confiscate nearly 7,000 properties from the Ecumenical Patriarchate since 1936. Behind them stood placard-size photos of the most recently seized property, an orphanage on Buyukada island which once housed hundreds of homeless children.”

In addition, Turkey has tolerated assaults against its Greek Orthodox religious minority, its continuing illegal closure of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology in Istanbul and its illegal seizure of Greek Orthodox Church property. As recently as October 28, 2005, groups of Turkish nationalists and other extreme elements demonstrated in the Phanar against the Ecumenical Patriarchate chanting angry slogans. Before the police intervened, the angry demonstrators reached the entrance to the Patriarchal compound, and placed a black wreath in front of the gate. To my understanding, the Turkish government has not issued a statement to protest this recent action.

The U.S. needs to press Turkey to enforce strictly the guarantees of religious freedom set forth in the Treaty of Lausanne, the UN Charter, and other international agreements. In accordance with U.S. law expressed in Section 2804 of the Fiscal Year 1999 Appropriations Bill, the U.S. government needs to use its influence with the Turkish government to safeguard the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel, and its property, and to reopen the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.

With the above serving as a back drop, I am enclosing herewith a set of questions that you might want to consider asking Mr. Wilson during his confirmation hearing.

If you or your staff have any questions or need additional information, please let me know.


Nick Larigakis
Executive Director

Enc.: Sample Questions [see below]

Sample Questions to Senate Foreign Relations Committee for nomination of
  1. Ross Wilson

    Turkey recently was admitted to begin negotiations to get into the EU. However, Turkey continues to refuse to recognize Cyprus, an EU country. Do you think that Turkey should be required to recognize the Republic of Cyprus before proceeding further with negotiations?
  2. Are you aware that U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) Stated: “The concern of this Commission is the protection of religious rights and freedoms. Turkey’s treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate violates its obligations under international human rights law.” The statement was made at a U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing on March 16, 2005. Will you pursue with Turkey the need to establish religious freedom and rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its Christian minority?
  3. Are you aware that under the Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the President is obligated to oppose violations of religious freedom in any country whose government “engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom and promote the right to religious freedom in that country?” Will you actively uphold U.S. law and hold Turkey accountable for its violations of the religious freedom of its Christian minority in accordance to the Religious Freedom Act of 1998?
  4. Do you support the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish military forces from Cyprus?
  5. Do you support the immediate removal from Cyprus of the 120,000 illegal Turkish settlers/colonists from Anatolia who are in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949?
  6. Do you support the tearing down of the Turkish Green Line barbed wire fence across the face of Cyprus?
  7. Are you aware that almost daily, Turkish military aircraft violate sovereign Greek air space over the Aegean Sea? In addition, Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Aegean boundaries as established by international law and treaties. How will you deal with this issue? Do you accept the boundaries in the Aegean as set forth by these laws and treaties?

For more information about the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, D.C., contact Georgia Economou, Director of Public Relations for AHI, at (202) 785-8430 or at georgia@ahiworld.org, or visit the groups' website at http://www.ahiworld.org. AHI was founded in 1974 following Turkey's illegal invasion and occupation of 37.3% of Cyprus. It is a membership-based organization with members throughout the nation. AHI's core mission is to promote American values and the rule of law in U.S. foreign policy and to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Greece and Cyprus as being in the best interests of the United States. It conducts an active program with Congress in espousing and supporting legislation designed to promote American interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean and is registered with the Congress under the Lobbying Act. The AHI Foundation is the first think-tank devoted exclusively to the study of the issues confronting the Greek American community. This organization sponsors conferences, seminars and publishes books and other materials on the issues.

HCS maintains an extensive archives for AHI articles and press releases which visitors may browse under the American Hellenic Institute Releases section of the archives at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveahi.html.

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