Blog Archives

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).

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.

Rubio, Wyden Urge Biden Administration to Press Turkey on Its Troubling Human Rights Record

Bipartisan Letter Cites Portland Trail Blazer Enes Kanter Among the Critics Erdogan has Tried to Silence

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) urged the Biden Administration to press the Turkish government to improve its human rights record, which includes an increasingly authoritarian crackdown on dissent both domestically and abroad.

The bipartisan letter signed by more than 50 other senators cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for marginalizing domestic opposition, silencing or coopting critical media outlets, purging independent judges and replacing them with party loyalists, and jailing scores of journalists.

“President Erdogan’s foreign policy has also grown more belligerent and combative over time. In recent years, he brazenly attacked U.S.-backed Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria, he purchased Russian air defense systems despite warnings that they were incompatible with U.S. technology, and he encouraged Azerbaijan to use violence to settle a territorial dispute with Armenia,” the senators wrote.

“President Erdogan has also attempted to pressure the U.S. and other countries into extraditing Turkish nationals, whom he blames for the failed coup in 2016. The Erdogan government has sought to silence critics in the United States like Enes Kanter, an NBA player and human rights advocate, by going after his family in Turkey and placing an INTERPOL red notice on him.”

The senators note that the United States has a significant opportunity to influence Turkey’s troubling human rights record because it’s an important ally in a key region of the world.

“We believe that the United States must hold allies and partners to a higher standard and speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding,” the senators continued. “We urge you to emphasize to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course.”

In addition to Rubio and Wyden, the letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John Thune (R-SD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Lankford (R-OK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

The full text of the letter is available here.