Turkey is not Faring Well in the US and Europe

December 22, 2011  

Ahmet Davutgolu, Turkish Foreign Minister and the architect of his country’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy, bragged about bringing Israel to its knees.

Turkey is not down on its knees but has been experiencing a few setbacks.

The French National Assembly disregarded Turkish threats and voted in favor of a law criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan immediately announced the suspension of all ties both military and cultural and recalled Turkey’s ambassador to France.

The pro government Zaman, in the lead up to the vote in the French National Assembly, produced quotations from Armenians living in Turkey including the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey warning France that’s the bill would “deal a severe blow to the historic ties of brotherhood between Turks and Armenians.” Another Armenian was quoted saying that although he had lost his grandfather in 1915 (the time of the genocide) he did not believe that this involved genocide and “in any case you cannot make anyone accept the term ‘genocide’ by force.

These quotations reflected the precarious situation of Armenians living in Turkey. Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora were a different story. Edward Nalbandian, the Foreign Minister of Armenia, expressed “gratitude” immediately after the vote. One of the main speakers in favor of the bill from the ruling UMP party was Patrick Devedjian, himself of Armenian extraction. He reminded the Assembly that Turkish historians were prosecuted for having “affirmed the existence of the Armenian genocide”. The majority in favor of the bill crossed party-opposition lines and a majority in the left as well as on the right was in favor.

The main exception was François Bayrou, leader of the centrist Democratic Movement, who has been edging up in the polls and is now favored by nearly 14% of the electorate on the first ballot for the presidency. Bayrou call the text of the bill unreasonable and dangerous.

The UMP’s Michel Diefenbacher, president of the Franco-Turkish Friendship Group, claimed that it was wrong to stir up trouble in strategic regions and asked the legislators to think how they would feel if somebody brought up an atrocity committed during the French Revolution and threatened France with sanctions if they thought otherwise.

Erdogan comforted himself with the assertion that the French politicians were pandering to half a million voters of Armenian extraction. He hinted that Sarkozy would probably be chastised by Muslim voters.

Turkey has not been faring well in the United States – nor in the rest of Europe.

A bipartisan resolution passed the House of Representatives calling upon Turkey to return to the church properties that were stolen through genocide and to end its oppression of the surviving churches in Turkey. Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California explained the resolution as follows: “Despite Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent claims of progress on religious freedom, Turkey’s Christian communities continue to face severe discrimination…”Today, the U.S. House of Representatives considered and adopted my legislation, which calls upon the government of Turkey to end religious discrimination, allow religious prayer and education, and return stolen church property. The United States has a strong interest in promoting religious freedom abroad.”

Democratic Congressman Howard Berman also of California, who spearheaded the resolution together with Royce, concurred “This important resolution calls attention to Turkey’s disturbing, persistent failure to respect the ancient Christian heritage of Anatolia and to treat its Christian communities as free and equal citizens.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has intervened with the Turkish authorities to secure the release of imprisoned Turkish journalists. Scores of journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey accused either of aiding a military coup or of sympathies with Kurdish separatists.

In Turkey proper the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been split over legislation stiffening punishment for those involved in football match fixing. The internal fighting may dent the party’s image of political cleanliness.

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