Thursday, March 22, 2007

Business leaders see improved chances to stop genocide measures

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Turkish Daily News

Chief of US-Turkish business group hopeful that Armenian resolutions won't be brought to vote in US Congress

The head of a key U.S.-Turkish business group, including top U.S. defense companies dealing with Turkey, said he hoped that two Armenian genocide resolutions pending in the U.S. Congress would not be brought to a vote.

"I'm hopeful that we've made significant progress that the leadership of the Congress will not bring either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives this legislation to the floor for vote," James Holmes, president of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) said in an interview with the Turkish Daily News.

Separately, the top official from the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) said the situation on the Armenian resolutions was nowmore positive from Turkey's standpoint compared to what it was some two months ago.

"It is more positive than the situation two months ago, but unfortunately we cannot say that the issue is out the agenda," Arzu Doğan Yalçındağ told reporters here on Tuesday after a TÜSİAD team had talks with a congressman, State Department officials and think tanks on the resolutions.

The two legislations pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate call for official recognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. It is not clear if or when the resolutions could be discussed and voted on in Congress' two chambers.

Turkey is involved in a major effort to prevent the passage of the measures, with top officials, including Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül and Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yasar Büyükanıt, telling administration officials and lawmakers here the risks involved with passage of the resolutions.

In identical letters sent to congressional leaders earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged the House to drop the genocide legislation. The Armenian resolution was introduced in the Senate afterthe Rice-Gates letter, but President George W. Bush's administration is also working to dissuade senators on the measure.

The secretaries emphasized that the House resolution's passage would jeopardize U.S. national interests, including a disruption of Turkey's assistance to U.S. forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"All of this together, I think, has finally begun to have an effect with the members of Congress that this is not a free vote, this is a vote which would have political consequences and commercial consequences and that they need to take greater care in addressing such issues," said Holmes, a former U.S. ambassador.

"We have a lot of business with Turkey and we have a lot of prospective business with Turkey, which doesn't merit being risked on such a resolution. So from the perspective of U.S. interests, the legislation is completely unwanted," he said.

His ATC has sent an open letter to all lawmakers, arguing against the genocide measure, and the group's members are seeking to use their influence on legislators representing their states and districts.

"We urge members of the House and the Senate not to vote in favor of the resolutions and the leadership not to bring these measures to the floor," Holmes said.

Qualifying the genocide resolutions as a "black cloud" hovering over U.S.-Turkish relations, Yalçındağ said that the measures' passage would very badly affect economic and business ties. "No one will benefit from this," she said.

Rejecting U.S. Armenian arguments that U.S. recognition of genocide would force Turkey into a closer relationship with Armenia, Holmes said: "No one in their right mind could believe that support for this resolution will advance Turkish-Armenian ties."

On their part, U.S. Armenians believe that they have found a unique opportunity for genocide recognition in Congress at a time when both chambers' newly-elected Democratic leaderships are sympathetic to their cause.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had pledged backing for the Armenians before nationwide congressional elections last November. But since she took office in January she has made no public remarks on Armenian-related matters.

The Armenian National Committee of America, a large and hardline U.S. Armenian group, has invited hundreds of fellow activists throughout the United State heretoday (Thursday) and tomorrow to put pressure on Congress.

Holmes' ATC will be holding an annual conference on U.S.-Turkish ties here next week. Top participants will include Gates, Turkey's Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Ergin Saygun and Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Edmund Giambastiani.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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