By James Morrison
January 3, 2006
Pressure on Turkey
Sixty members of Congress are urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to pressure Turkey into withdrawing troops from Cyprus, ending its blockade of Armenia and recognizing the Armenian “genocide” of 1915.
They also urged her to oppose further congressional visits to the Turkish-Cypriot side of the island, which is diplomatically recognized only by Turkey. Three members of the House visited the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus last year, after Turkish-Cypriots supported a reunification plan proposed by the United Nations. Greek-Cypriots rejected the plan.
The House members who signed a letter to Miss Rice last week also questioned her meeting in October with Turkish-Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat.
The letter, written by Rep. Jim Costa, California Democrat, said the European Union already is demanding that Turkey end its blockade of Armenia and withdraw troops from northern Cyprus. The European Union admitted Cyprus as a member under the Greek-Cypriot government.
Mr. Costa, whose Central Valley district includes 60,000 Armenian-Americans, said Turkey is undermining its own self-interests with its blockade of Armenia, claiming Turkey’s foreign policy is “held hostage by the interests of Azerbaijan.” Turkey imposed the blockade after Armenia supported an armed uprising by ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan.
He also urged Turkey to recognize the conflict between Armenians and the Ottoman Turkish Empire during World War I as genocide. Armenians say the genocide took more than 1.5 million lives, but Turkey argues that the lives were lost during a conflict between Turkish and Armenian forces.
Turkey denies a genocide occurred.
On Cyprus, Mr. Costa noted, “Not only has Turkey failed to recognize Cyprus, but it continues to occupy illegally over 37 percent of the island with a standing force of 43,000 Turkish troops after invading the country in 1974 and expelling over 180,000 Greek-Cypriots.”
Turkey moved forces onto Cyprus to protect Turkish-Cypriots after a coup engineered by Greek military officers who wanted to annex the island with Greece.
Mr. Costa recognized the strategic and geographic importance of Turkey.
“Turkey is at the crossroads of Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East,” he said. “It has the opportunity to play an important role in the ongoing developments in the region.”
Embassy to reopen
The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia is expected to consider reopening today, after closing last week because of a suspected terrorist threat.
Embassy spokeswoman Kathryn Taylor told reporters in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, that the mission closed its doors to the public because of a threat, but she did not provide any details. She noted that the embassy was closed yesterday for the New Year’s holiday.
“The embassy will close effective [Friday] … until further notice due to a security threat to the embassy,” U.S. officials said in a written statement.
Police Chief Mustafa Abdullah, however, told reporters that he was contacted last week by an embassy official who was concerned about suspicious activities by several foreigners who appeared to be conducting surveillance of the diplomatic compound on one of the capital’s busiest streets. The men were videotaped on embassy security cameras.
“They lodged a police report saying they saw somebody carrying a camera in front of the embassy, so they believe these people are trying to take photographs of the embassy,” Chief Abdullah told the Agence France-Presse.
“They presume these people were trying to do harm to the embassy,” he added.
“To us, it’s not a threat. It’s a misunderstanding,” he said. “They could be tourists loafing around the area carrying cameras. Kuala Lumpur has a lot of tourists carrying cameras.”