Oversight Hearing: “The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders


Statement of The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Oversight Hearing: “The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders

Chairman Berman, Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen and distinguished members of the committee, The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), an organization that serves as the voice of half a million Turkish and Turkic Americans throughout the United States, commends the Committee’s attention to the situation in the Caucasus and the implications of the region’s unresolved conflicts.

Regrettably, these frozen conflicts hinder the prospects for peace, stability and cooperation, undermining security, and democratic and economic development—an issue that is of grave concern not only to the countries in the region, but also to the United States. Today the ATAA would like to present to the Committee, information regarding the conflicts in the region, and the constructive role that Turkey has played and will continue to play in the resolution of these conflicts.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union, less than three months after the official declaration. Since that time, Turkey has taken proactive measures to foster productive relations with Armenia.

For example, Turkey has adopted a set of confidence building measures between the two countries, including: direct commercial flights between various Turkish cities and Yerevan; opening of two air corridors which are used by 100 international flights per month; facilitating transit trade between Armenia and the West; and inviting Armenia to become a founding member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).

Still, Armenia and the Armenian American lobby allege that Turkey is engaging in a blockade or embargo against Armenia. An embargo is the prohibition of commerce and trade with a country with the intent of isolation and economic damage to that country.

A blockade is an attempt to isolate, obstruct and prevent communications, supplies, and people from entering or leaving a country. Applying these definitions, the Congressional Research Services’ Report of May 2, 2008, “Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Development and Implications for U.S. Interests,” states that there is an Armenian blockade of the Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan. While noting the economic impacts of the closed land border, CRS correctly has chosen not to define any of Turkey’s actions as a blockade or embargo.

According to the Turkish Armenian Business Development Council, Turkish-Armenian trade reached over $130 million in 2005 and $200 million in 2007, and Turkey is among the top five countries in Armenian foreign trade. No law exists in Turkey criminalizing individuals or corporations for conducting trade with Armenia or employing Armenian citizens.

In this vein, it is worth pointing out that over one million Armenians have left Armenia since its independence in 1991 due its failure to improve its democracy and economy, and its aggression against Azerbaijan. To date, approximately 100,000 Armenian citizens have immigrated to Turkey, and Armenian citizens are welcome to visit Turkey on 30-day visas issued at border ports of entry – a policy that is not reciprocated by Armenia.

Furthermore, Turkey does not restrict travel or business relations between Armenia and Turkey, or third party transit trade via Turkey.

To be sure, the Turkish-Armenian land border was closed and Turkey suspended diplomatic relations with Armenia in 1992 when Armenia invaded its neighbor Azerbaijan. To this day, 20% of Azerbaijan continues to be occupied by Armenia and an acute refugee crisis exists, in spite of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions denouncing the invasion as an act of aggression, and demanding an end to the violent occupation. Armenia has yet to comply.

Furthermore, as this esteemed Committee is well aware, the Armenian American lobby presses for the passage of resolutions such as the infamous H.Res.106, which crudely constitutes a politically motivated indictment against the Turkish people and threatens US-Turkey relations. Once again exercising its goodwill, in 2005 Turkey provided a proposal to Armenia to establish a Joint Historic Commission, the findings of which would be binding. The United States supports Turkey’s proposal. However, three rounds of talks between the foreign ministries have not yet yielded any solid commitment from Armenia.

To complicate matters further, Armenia has now made it a crime to dissent with the Armenian state and even question the Armenian allegation of genocide.

ATAA believes that the solution to these frozen conflicts lies in open dialogue and engagement between the conflicting countries. In the most recent gesture to cultivate friendly relations, the Turkish President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister sent letters to their Armenian counterparts following the Armenian Presidential elections, expressing their hope for an atmosphere conducive to normalizing relations and their desire for dialogue between the two countries. Dialogue and cooperation are the only way forward for all countries in the region to achieve complete and sustainable political and economic stability and prosperity, and security.


ATAA Statement Enters House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing Record on Southern Caucasus, June 18, 2008

Washington, DC - On June 18, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) held a hearing, "The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders". The HFAC Hearing was an opportunity for members to make comments and ask questions to Ambassador Dan Fried, Department of State Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, regarding the situation in the Caucasus.

The HFAC accepted the Statement of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) by President Nurten Ural concerning:
Armenia's aggression against and violent occupation of Azerbaijan, massacres of thousands of Azeris, and displacement of over one million Azeri refugees from western to eastern Azerbaijan;

Armenia's illegal blockade of the Nakchivan territory of Azerbaijan, as recently reported by Congressional Research Services;

Congressional Research Services' report that Turkey's closed borders with Armenia does not constitute to a blockade or embargo against Armenia;

Turkey's efforts to normalize relations with Armenia, including facilitating trade transit, engaging in over $200 million in trade, accepting immigrant workers, providing of visitation visas at the Turkish-Armenian border entry ports, allowing two air corridors and over 100 flights per month roundtrip from Turkey to Armenia, proposing to establish a joint historic commission to study and rule on the events defining the Armenian Revolt and Insurgency (1880-1919) and 1915 Ottoman relocation of Armenians from the war zones.
Many of the HFAC Committee members who participated were from California and spoke to represent their Armenian constituents. HFAC Chairman Berman, whose office had met with former ANCA Chairman Mourad Topalian, who was convicted of weapons and explosive charges that federal authorities connected to at least three incidents of Armenian terrorism, led the general attack on Turkey and the Turkish people.

Berman expressed that because since 1992 Armenia has demonstrated "resolve" on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, Turkey should give up its strategy of trying to change Armenia's mind through a border blockade of Armenia. He further expressed that because it costs $2000 extra per truck to transit from Turkey to Armenia through Georgia due to the closed land border, under such financial hardships, Armenia was forced to develop relations with Iran.

According to President-Elect Evinch, who attended the hearing, "Chairman Berman's underlying position seems to endorse Armenia's violent invasion and occupation of Azerbaijan under an absurd interpretation of the right of self-determination regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, an area one-third the size of Hawaii island and in the heart of Azerbaijan. Berman forgives Armenia for developing an economic and military alliance with Iran, and blames Turkey's border closing for Armenia's irresponsible actions." Evinch continued, "This view caters to the interests of the Armenian American lobby, not the United States."

Evinch added, "$2000 spent extra on transit per truck, is $2000 less Armenia can use for its military aggression against Azerbaijan. If Armenia seeks to reduce the cost of its aggression by forging an alliance with Iran, it will have admitted that its "resolve" will be at the cost of Armenia's integration with the West. This policy caters to Armenian ultra-nationalists, not to Armenia's best interest.

Some HFAC members accused Azerbaijan of preparing for a war with Armenia, based on statements made by the Azerbaijan President. Evinch expressed, "What's lost upon the California members of the HFAC is that Azerbaijan's territory is occupied by Armenia, and Azerbaijan has one million internal refugees because of that. It is the duty of the government of Azerbaijan to protect its citizens. I would expect no less from the United States government if Florida were invaded and occupied by Cuba and one million refugees had fled to Washington, DC for protection."

Some HFAC members, particularly California representatives Watson, Schiff, and Sherman, pressed Ambassador Fried on whether and why the United States does not define the Armenian case as genocide. Watson stated that she represents many Armenians in her district, Hollywood, and demanded a "yes-or-no" response. Ambassador Fried responded repeatedly that the United States "does not use the word", as that would prejudice rapprochement efforts between Turkey and Armenia.

Turkey's border closure action on Armenia , most of the time termed as an Embargo, is voiced out and protested at various platforms and by, particularly, US-Armenians...I was unable to locate any documents that address the nature, history and progress of the border closure sanction and the legal and global repercussions thereof...

I am particulary interested in the scope of border closure and the specific terms and restrictions imposed, the legal standing thereof in terms of international law and whether it is also endorsed by global authorities such as UN or other world governments...

A document like a fact-sheet would be very convenient for this purpose, if any...

The text you provided mentions very vital info on the issue, that I have not been aware of before, such as that flights to and fro Armenia over Turkey are allowed if not free altogether and Armenian citizens are allowed visas to Turkey tough the Turks are not to Armenia etc..

Another important assertion of the text is that "To complicate matters further, Armenia has now made it a crime to dissent with the Armenian state and even question the Armenian allegation of genocide."

Do we have concrete evidence of that such as a direct reference to such an article in Armenian criminal code?

And another thing I am particularly interested in is whether the Turkish sanctions on Armenia started before or after Armenia's blockade on Nakhcivan...

If you or any others could provide some supporting documents regarding the abovegiven, I would be indebted...


Post a Comment

The form below could be used for:
# Anonymous Dob In Line,
# your comments & feedback,
# pasting your several pageful of articles to be published here at this site.

# also leave your name & email address, if you want to be contacted
# and write "Confidential" at the top and bottom of your message if you do not want your comment or feedback to to be published here

Anonymous Posting Details:
(We publish Your IP address & tracking info if anonymous)
After entering your text in the comment box,
Please select profile as "Anonymous" within the "Comment As" DropDown Menu, or just select Name/URL & enter your name or your web address,

Then publish it by clicking on the "POST COMMENT" button, below.