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Over 50 Members of Congress Sign Bipartisan Letter Opposing F-16 Sale to Turkey

Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL) Sign Armenian Caucus Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian American community welcomed a bipartisan letter, spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, rejecting the recent proposal by Turkey to purchase Block 70 F-16 fighter jets as well as mechanical upgrades to F-16s from the United States.

The February 4, 2022 letter states in part: “Approving this proposal would reward President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for ignoring both Turkey’s alliance commitments to the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the vast human rights abuses his regime continues to commit at home and abroad.”

In addition to Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Bilirakis, Florida Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL) also signed the letter.

Turkey has destabilized multiple regions around the world, including the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, North Africa, and particularly the South Caucasus, when F-16s were used against the Armenian people during the 44-day war in Artsakh in the Fall of 2020. Turkey deployed its lethal and armed unmanned aerial vehicle, the Bayraktar TB2, to cause irreparable damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure, which was confirmed by satellite images.

The letter continues: “The purchase of advanced fighter jets from the United States for Turkey’s military arsenal…will more likely lead to further death and destruction in the region at the hands of his [Erdoğan] military.”

Erdoğan also continues to “jeopardize American national security” by utilizing the Russian-manufactured S-400 missile defense systems, which can expose “important tactical information about U.S. weaponry and military operations to Russia,” in an attempt to “pit the United States and Russia against each other.”

The letter highlights Erdoğan’s human rights abuses in Turkey, the suppression of civil society, the promotion of unfair elections, and the restriction of freedom of speech, leading to the detainment of a Turkish journalist last week who was arrested for reportedly insulting Erdoğan.

The letter concludes: “We strongly urge you to reject Turkey’s request for new F-16s and modernization kits and take immediate action to hold the Erdoğan regime accountable. The United States must not provide any further support to Turkey’s military until President Erdoğan takes tangible steps to halt his destabilizing actions and violations of international law at home and abroad.”

“Florida Armenians applaud Reps. Bilirakis, Deutch, Diaz-Bolart, and all of the letter signatories for taking this important, principled stand as Erdogan’s Turkey continues to prove that it is no longer the reliable ally and partner of the United States that it once was,” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Arsine Kaloustian.

Joining Congressmen Pallone and Bilirakis on the letter are Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Valadao (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

New Poll Finds More Armenians Feel Country is Going in the Wrong Direction

By Harut Sassounian

Syndicated Columnist

The Washington-based International Republican Institute’s public opinion poll, conducted November 22-December 5, 2021, measured the Armenian population’s views on political, economic, and security issues. The survey was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The poll revealed a key finding: 46% of the population thinks that “Armenia is headed in the wrong direction,” while only 34% thinks that the country is headed in “the right direction.” This indicates that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s often-repeated boast that he enjoys “the people’s mandate” is not necessarily so. This is a significant shift from the 54% of the votes the Prime Minister’s political party received in the June 20, 2021 parliamentary elections. More importantly, the number of those who think that Armenia is headed in the wrong direction increased from 20% in May 21, 2021 to 34% in July 2021 and 46% in December 2021.

However, on another important question, “Do you believe that you or people like you can influence decisions made in our country,” 66% said yes, while 33% said no. This is definitely a positive indication for the authorities.

The next question: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way democracy is developing in our country?” the country was almost evenly split: 51% yes and 47% no.

To the question: “Do you consider our country to be governed in the interest of the majority of people or in the interest of some groups?” 61% said it was governed in the interest of “some groups,” while only 31% said it was governed in the interest of “the majority.” This reflects negatively on the current government.
On the positive side, 66% of the people surveyed said they are “not afraid of openly expressing their opinions,” while 31% said they were afraid to do so.
To the question: “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the work of the following state bodies?” the top approval was given to Pashinyan government’s frequent critic, Human Rights Defender’s (Ombudsman’s) office (68% satisfied vs. 25% dissatisfied); the police (68% vs. 29%); local governments (63% vs. 33%); armed forces (58% vs. 37%); Central Electoral Commission (57% vs. 33%); and National Security Service (50% vs. 41%). The Prime Minister’s office came in 7th place with 49% satisfied vs. 48% dissatisfied. The Armenian Parliament came in 16th place with 31% satisfied and a whopping 67% dissatisfied. This is not surprising as the parliament’s televised sessions frequently show scenes of shouting matches, insults, and physical altercations ending with abrupt orders by the parliament’s leadership representing the Prime Minister’s political party to turn off the TV cameras to hide the disorderly conduct of the rowdy parliamentarians.

Turning to foreign policy issues, those surveyed ranked France on top with 92% as having the best relationship with Armenia. Then came Iran (80%); the United States (77%); China (75%); European Union (69%); Russia (64%); Georgia (58%); UK (47%); other (10%); Turkey (5%); and Azerbaijan at the very bottom with 3%.

When asked “Which two countries were the most important political partners for Armenia?” Russia (57%); France (50%); the U.S. (38%); Iran (23%); European Union (5%); China (5%); Georgia (3%); and India (1%).

In response to “Which two countries are the most important economic partners of Armenia?” Russia again came first with 61%; Iran (40%); (China (29%); the U.S. (16%); France (14%); Georgia (8%); European Union (7%); India (2%); and Turkey (2%).

When asked “Which 2 countries are the most important security partners for Armenia?” the answers were: Russia (64%); France (32%); Iran (31%); the U.S. (26%); European Union (5%); China (4%); Georgia (2%); and India (1%).

“Which 2 countries are the greatest political threat to Armenia?” The survey respondents said: Turkey (90%); Azerbaijan (77%); Russia (15%); UK (3%); Israel (2%); the U.S, (2%); and Georgia (1%).

“Which 2 countries are the biggest economic threat to Armenia?” Survey respondents said: Turkey (68%); Azerbaijan (52%); Russia (17%); Georgia (10%); Iran (4%); the U.S. (1%); China (1%); and European Union (1%).

“Which 2 countries are the greatest security threat to Armenia?” Survey respondents said: Turkey (88%); Azerbaijan (81%); Russia (11%); Iran (2%); the U.S. (2%); Israel (2%); Georgia (1%); France (1%); and UK (1%).

“The relationship with which 2 countries needs to be improved for the development of Armenia?” The survey respondents said: Russia (53%); the U.S. (35%); Iran (29%); France (25%); China (15%); European Union (9%); Georgia (7%); Turkey (5%); Azerbaijan (4%); India (1%); and UK (1%).

The survey then asked if the respondents agreed or disagreed with the following three questions:

  • 73% agreed and 25% disagreed that “Armenia should start a dialog with Turkey and normalize bilateral relations, while pursuing the agenda of recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey.”
  • 70% agreed and 27% disagreed that “Armenia must establish bilateral relations with Turkey by putting forward its own preconditions such as Turkey’s non-hindrance of peace in Artsakh.”
  • 44% agreed and 53% disagreed that “Under no circumstances Armenia should pursue normalization of relations with Turkey.”

Most survey respondents disagreed with Pashinyan that opening roads with Azerbaijan is beneficial to Armenia. When asked: “How will the opening of transport routes with Azerbaijan impact Armenia’s economic development?” 27% gave a positive answer; 59% negative.

The same is true for Turkey. When asked: “How will the opening of transport routes with Turkey impact Armenia’s economic development?” 35% gave a positive answer; 53% negative.

When asked: “How important is the resolution to the Artsakh conflict for the future of Armenia in the next 10 years?” The overwhelming 96 % said “important”; 3% “unimportant.”

The survey asked: “What would be an acceptable solution of the Artsakh conflict?”

  • 35% said: “Recognition of Artsakh as an independent state.”
  • 34% said: “The unification of Artsakh with Armenia as a region of the Republic of Armenia.”
  • 16% said: “Establishment of the status of the Artsakh Autonomous Region within Armenia.”
  • 11% said: “Establishment of the status of Artsakh within Russia.”
  • 1% said: “Maintaining the current status quo.”

When asked: “Is Armenia able to independently defend its borders with Azerbaijan, without the help of any other country?” 46% said yes; 53% no.

Finally, when asked: “Which country would you prefer to assist Armenia in defending its borders?” 47% said Russia; the U.S. (18%); France (14%); Iran (8%); China (2%); European Union (1%); all three Minsk Group countries of Russia, the U.S., France (1%); and NATO (1%).

Whether we agree or disagree, these are the answers that the people of Armenia gave. It reflects their current mindset.

Analysis: All Signs Point to President Biden Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians.com Editor

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Over the last few months, talk has been swirling around the capital that Joe Biden would unequivocally acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in the President’s annual April 24th remembrance day statement. While no U.S. President has acknowledged the Armenian Genocide since President Ronald Reagan in 1981, this time things were different. Any objective observer of Armenian American politics knows that Joe Biden has the longest pro-Armenia record (nearly 40 years) of any President in American history. 

While making his position ever more clear on the campaign trail in 2020, the Biden Administration has made a series of moves over the last few months all signaling that America would no longer just “not deny” the Armenian Genocide as some former officials have put it, but that our foreign service officers who represent America abroad would be allowed to speak truthfully about 1915. 

The following analysis of events early on in the Biden Administration and over the last few weeks all point to an official statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide coming from the White House on April 24, 2021.

To set the stage for President affirmation, Congress, led by the President’s Democratic party, had a role to play. After all, Congress had just recognized the Armenian Genocide for the first time in modern history with unanimous passage of an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution in the Senate in 2019 and House passage of a similar bill in 2020 by a vote of 405-11.

On March 19th, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a letter signed by 38 Senators to President Biden urging him to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

Then, news of a Presidential acknowledgement first broke on March 20th, when Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer tweeted “White House: US will formally recognize Armenian genocide. #AboutTime.” From there momentum began to build and Turkey’s lobbyists and Armenian American advocacy groups began an intense lobbying offensive.

On March 24th, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, the first time senior U.S. and Turkish officials have met since Biden was sworn in as President. The exchange between the two foreign ministers, by all accounts, was rather tense. “Secretary Blinken urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 air defense system, expressed concern over Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, and emphasized the importance of democratic institutions and respect for human rights,” according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.

By this point, President Biden had spoken directly to the head of state of nearly every major U.S. ally, except Turkey. “Erdogan is desperate to secure a phone call with Biden,” Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now Senior Director of the Turkey program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Kurdistan 24.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador for USAID nominee Samantha Power tweeted about the Armenian Genocide in a tribute to the late Dr. Vartan Gregorian, an icon of the Armenian American community and a descendent of genocide survivors who passed away on April 16. 

On Tuesday, April 20, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu cast his government’s final threat in typical Turkish diplomatic fashion stating that America “needs to respect international law,” that such “statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties,” and that “if the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs,” Reuters reported.

The next day, over 100 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Biden keeping the pressure up on the White House. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times ran headlines reading “Biden Poised to Recognize Massacres of Armenians as Genocide, Officials Say” and “Biden Preparing to Declare That Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide,” respectively. 

Also on Wednesday, April 21, a less talked about announcement was made when the White House informed Turkey that it had signed a new deal with the eight F-35 producing nations, officially marking the removal of Turkey from the Department of Defense’s next generation stealth fighter jet program, the culmination of a years-long process begrudgingly started by the Trump Administration. Later the same day, Turkey announced it was already in talks to purchase a second regiment of S-400 air defense systems from Russia.

Then on Friday, April 23rd around noon, the White House reported that President Biden had spoken to Prime Minister Erdogan by phone and relayed his “interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements.” In response to a question about the President’s call with Erdogan at the State Department Daily Press Briefing at 2:06pm, spokesperson Jalina Porter stated “So at this time, we don’t have anything to read out as far as the Secretary’s call with his Turkish counterpart. But when it comes to the Armenian genocide, you can expect an announcement tomorrow, and we would have to refer you to the White House.” 

This is the first time that a State Department official has accurately referred to the events of 1915 since 2007, when former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans publicly (although privately) acknowledged the fact of the genocide and was subsequently fired from his post. 

Moments later, at 2:31pm on April 23rd, Bloomberg News reported that Biden had also told Erdogan in the phone call that he will acknowledge the Armenian Genocide in a statement the next day.

It must be stated that these events have take place against the backdrop of an increasingly Islamist Turkey whose actions under the 20 year rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned the once pro-Western NATO ally into a belligerent, autocratic, ISIS-aligned, destabilizing force that now threatens U.S. interests beyond the Middle East. 

“Erdogan’s dictatorship renders ineffective Turkish diplomats—including current Ambassador Murat Mercan—who can only speak to the most ardent apologists for Erdogan’s behavior rather than those who stand in opposition. Erdogan has purged many Turkish-American lobby groups so that they reflect only his inner circle rather than Turkey’s (and America’s) broader political and intellectual spectrum. In short, Turkey can lobby but few will answer Mercan’s phone calls, let alone those of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu,” former Pentagon official and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Michael Rubin recently wrote in 19fortyfive.com. 

Despite the well known truth of the Armenian Genocide, not to mention the overwhelming body of evidence in the national archives of nearly a dozen countries across the world, and the incredible scholarly works that, in the face of state sponsored genocide denial, have judicially and meticulously made the case, the time has finally come for Armenian Americans to feel the sense of recognition, acceptance, and pride that Diaspora Armenians in other countries around the world have felt knowing that our government hears us, believes us, and is unafraid to stand on the right side of history with us.