58 Members of Congress Ask Bush to Urge Turkish Prime Minister to End Blockade of Armenia
Washington, D.C. --- 58 members of the U.S. House of Representatives today sent a letter to President Bush urging that he call on Turkey to lift its blockade against Armenia during his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tomorrow.
In the bipartisan letter, initiated by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, the lawmakers stressed the urgent need for President Bush to express his opposition to the blockade and impress upon the Turkish Prime Minster the positive effects lifting the blockade would have on regional security and economic ties.
"The Armenian government has repeatedly stated that it is ready to establish, without preconditions, full and normal relations with Turkey," the lawmakers wrote in their letter to President Bush. "If there is to be a resolution of conflicts in the region and a reduction of tensions along borders, it is essential that Turkey move forthwith to lift this destructive blockade.
"Given the challenges facing the United States following the seminal events of September 11th and the war in Iraq, U.S. policy in Turkey and the South Caucasus will continue to focus on security, conflict resolution, ensuring open borders and commercial corridors and regional cooperation," the lawmakers continued. "U.S., Turkish, NATO/Partnership for Peace and EU security and economic interests depend now more than ever on Turkey immediately and unconditionally lifting its ongoing ten-year blockade of Armenia."
Last year, a State Department report estimated that the blockade is inflating Armenias transportation costs by 30 to 35 percent, thereby stifling its trade and economy. The report also stated that opening the border would catalyze commercial opportunities for Turkey and Armenia in the fields of energy, trade and tourism, valued at $1 billion per year.
"By lifting its blockade of Armenia, Turkey will be playing a constructive role in continuing the development of infrastructure necessary for regional communications, transportation, energy and trade on an East-West axis," the members continued. "The removal of all blockades and border closures in and adjacent to the nations of the South Caucasus will provide positive incentives for U.S. private investment, increased trade with the West, and other forms of economic and political interactions with the global community."
In affect since 1994, Turkeys blockade violates U.S. law and rejects international standards of conduct set forth by organizations such as the European Union (EU) and Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE). The EU has repeatedly called upon Turkey to open the last closed border of Europe and has made normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations a pre-condition for Turkeys accession to the EU. Turkey is the only Council of Europe (CE) state and NATO member to engage in a blockade against a fellow CE state.
Following, is a list of the 58 lawmakers who signed the letter to President Bush:
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Patrick J. Kennedy
Grace F. Napolitano
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Eleanor Holmes Norton