Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Armenians Around the World Repulsed as Erdogan Gains Control of Areas in Syria Containing Mass Graves of Armenian Genocide Victims
(L-R) Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Michael McCaul, and Rep. Liz Cheney
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) presses Congress to work quickly and fully sanction Turkey, especially given Turkey’s ongoing attacks in northern Syria, even while a temporary “ceasefire” was brokered by U.S. officials.
“It is crucial that the United States Congress follow through with sanctions imposed on Turkey for its violent invasion and seizure of northern Syria. The Turkish government has shown no compassion for the many lives lost this week, just like a hundred years ago. This territory that Turkey is invading is home to mass graves of Armenian Genocide victims. Turkish leaders have indicated that they will continue fighting until their demands are met,” Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian said.
“There are many reasons why Turkey is not our ally. To name a few examples, Turkey continues to violate all basic human rights, denies religious freedoms especially to Christians, and has proven to be a lifeline for ISIS. It is further disturbing to find reports that nuclear weapons are being held ‘hostage’ by Erdogan at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, at a time where Turkey is acting so irresponsibly. The U.S. should have never been put in that position. Our weapons are not safe there, and should be removed.”
“The United States needs to make it clear that Turkey cannot do whatever it wishes and kill indiscriminately as it seeks to occupy a large section of land in Syria. If the U.S. stood up to Turkey, as President Ronald Reagan and other world leaders have done when they reaffirm the Armenian Genocide, then Turkey would not be behaving in such a barbaric manner and assume it can get away with it,” the Co-Chairs added.
New footage show ongoing attacks by Turkey across northern and eastern Syria, including a hospital hit in Ras al-Ain. Immediately following the announcement of the “ceasefire,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said that the military operation was merely “paused for 120 hours” rather than a “ceasefire.”
“We will only stop the operation if our conditions are met,”Cavusoglu said in a press conference. He added that “as a result of our president’s skillful leadership, we got what we wanted.” The “safe zone” proposed by Turkey will be under full control of the Turkish Armed Forces. “Giving a break does not mean to withdraw our forces,” Cavusoglu stated. “We will go on being there.”
UNITED STATES SENATE
On October 18, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the “Countering Turkish Aggression Act of 2019” to impose sanctions against Turkey following their invasion of northeastern Syria and their slaughter of the Kurdish people. Last week they introduced the framework of the bill.
The legislation would apply new sanctions to senior Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, key Turkish banks, military transactions, and their energy sector activities in support of the Turkish Armed Forces. It would require the U.S. Treasury to move forward with delayed sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over Turkey’s decision to obtain the S-400 Russian missile defense system. It also would prohibit U.S. military assistance to Turkey, bar President Erdogan and Turkish leadership from visiting the United States, and require reports on the net worth and assets of Mr. Erdogan amid concerns of corruption.
“This isn’t a political fight – this is about the countless people who are being slaughtered and the revival of ISIS. That is why we have come together on a bipartisan basis to act quickly,” said Senator Van Hollen. “While we work to pass the House resolution condemning these actions, we must move forward on these sanctions and apply real pressure to Turkey to end this madness.”
“At a time when the United States needs to speak with a clear voice regarding Turkey’s invasion into northeastern Syria, this bipartisan sanctions bill is that clear voice,” said Senator Graham. “Our legislation builds upon the Administrations’ efforts to sanction Turkey and goes further in important areas like prohibiting military assistance and transactions to the Turkish Armed Forces as well as mandates sanctions due to the S-400 purchases.”
In addition to Senators Van Hollen and Graham, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
On October 16, Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) and over 110 of her Republican colleagues in the House introduced legislation to sanction Turkey in response to Ankara’s military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
The sanctions include a ban on U.S. military assistance to NATO ally Turkey and, separately, would apply to anyone who provides financial, material or technological support to or knowingly conducts a transaction with the Turkish armed forces, including defense articles, petroleum and natural gas. This bill also extends the sanctions placed by CAATSA on Turkey in response to its purchase of the Russian S-400 Triumph anti-missile defense system, opposed by the United States.
“We are very focused on what’s happening in Syria and Turkey. The situation in Syria today remains serious, remains grave,” Rep. Cheney said. “We’ve been working very closely with the Senate, working very closely across the aisle as well, but it’s very important to recognize the impact, in particular, that the Turks now are in a situation where we risk the resurgence of ISIS, where the Turks have gone in and we see evidence of atrocities being committed, and where our allies, the Kurds, frankly, are facing what looks like a betrayal from the United States that could have very negative consequences and impacts for us globally.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) also introduced the Protect Against Conflict by Turkey (PACT) Act, which is legislation to impose sanctions and other consequences against Turkey for its invasion of northern Syria.
The PACT Act sanctions senior Turkish officials involved in the decision and those committing human rights abuses; penalizes Turkish financial institutions involved in perpetuating President Erdogan’s corrupt practices and those which deal with the Turkish defense industry; prevents the sale of arms to Turkey for use in Syria; requires the Administration to impose CAATSA sanctions for Turkey’s purchase of the S-400; requires a series of reports to address the negative consequences of the Turkish invasion of northern Syria; and mandates a report on Erdogan’s net worth and assets.
“What’s happening in Northern Syria right now is a disgrace,” said Chairman Engel. “Today, we are introducing sanctions to hold Erdogan accountable. Congress must continue bipartisan work to address the disastrous consequences of President Trump’s decision.”
Congressman McCaul said: “The carnage that we have seen over the past week against our Kurdish partners and innocent civilians has been unbearable. There must be consequences. That’s why we introduced a very tough and comprehensive sanctions package to punish Turkey for its actions. The President has already begun implementing sanctions and this legislation builds upon those. My number one priority is protecting the homeland from external threats and that’s at the heart of this bill.”
The Assembly welcomed the legislation earlier this week.
Earlier this week, the Armenian Assembly of America issued an action alert urging Congress to support legislation condemning Turkey’s invasion in Syria and sanctioning Turkey for its violence against civilians, and to swiftly adopt bipartisan, bicameral legislation to stop the violence in northern Syria.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.