Bush administration opposes House measure on Turkey

Associated Press Worldstream
July 16, 2004 Friday 1:53 PM Eastern Time

Bush administration opposes House measure on Turkey

by HARRY DUNPHY; Associated Press Writer

President George W. Bush’s administration opposes a measure passed by
the House of Representatives forbidding Turkey to use U.S. aid to
lobby against a separate measure that would officially recognize the
Armenian genocide, a State Department spokesman said Friday.

“The House has passed it, the Senate has not and the administration
is opposed to it,” Richard Boucher said.

The House used a voice vote Thursday to approve language by
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California on Turkey that was added to
a $19.4 billion foreign aid bill the House approved.

Tens of thousands of Armenians live in Schiff’s district, which
includes Pasadena and other communities east of Los Angeles.

Armenians accuse Turks of a genocide of up to 1.5 million Armenians
between 1915 and 1923. Turks claim the number of deaths is inflated
and say the victims were killed in civil unrest.

“We are another step closer to silencing those who would deny the
murder of 1.5 million Armenians,” Schiff said after the vote. “This
amendment stands true to the memory of the victims.”

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other House Republican leaders said
in a statement that they oppose the Schiff amendment and “will insist
that conferees drop that provision” should the measure pass the

“Turkey has been a reliable ally of the United States for decades,
and the deep foundation upon which our mutual economic and security
relationship rests should not be disrupted by this amendment.”

They said the amendment seems meaningless because by law, foreign
governments are barred from using U.S. aid to lobby.

“But we understand the political motivation behind the amendment and
for that reason we will insist that it be dropped.”

The leaders also said they “have no intention” of scheduling the
Armenian genocide resolution for a vote for the rest of the year.

On a related matter, Boucher said Turkey had withdrawn its candidacy
to chair the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe in
2007 “due to competing obligations by high-level officials.

“They felt they would be unable to devote the appropriate attention
to the position. So we respect that decision.”

Last month Armenian Foreign Minister Vadan Oskanian said his country
would veto Turkey’s chairmanship because it thinks the role can only
be filled by a nation that has diplomatic relations with all the
OSCE’s states.

Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations, although the
Turks recently have expressed a willingness to improve the situation
between the two countries.

Besides differing over genocide, the two countries also are at odds
over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan that has been under
ethnic Armenian control since a war that ended in 1994 without a
political settlement.

Turkey, which shares close ethnic ties with Azerbaijan and supported
that nation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, has maintained and
economic blockage of Armenia, hobbling development in the landlocked
former Soviet republic.