WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) issues the following statement:
Turkey’s actions in Syria and the broader region are of no surprise to organizations such as the American Hellenic Institute. AHI has been calling out Turkey’s blatant disregard and violations of the rule of law since its illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974; an invasion made under the guise of a “peace operation” that led to the slaughter of innocent civilians and ethnic cleansing on Cyprus and is eerily similar to what is transpiring in Syria.
The Turkish invasion of northern Syria has been roundly condemned across the U.S. political spectrum and by the international community. Rarely has there been such comprehensive agreement on an international incident. But this invasion is not an isolated event. It must be placed in the historical context of Turkish policies over the last two generations which undermine and contradict the interests of the U.S. and NATO. Nostalgic U.S. policymakers have justified these Turkish policies citing some antiquated concept of chessboard geopolitics. Their reaction to any adverse act by Turkey is the excuse that Turkey is important for “the security of the West.”
Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, it is an old canard that, in international politics, nations act according to their self-defined geopolitical interests. But the corollary is that when a nation concludes a treaty with other nations to pursue a common objective, each signatory nation accommodates its self-interest to policies necessary to achieve the common objective. Since it became a NATO member state in 1954, Turkey has generally violated this corollary. With the unfortunate acquiescence of the other NATO member states, Turkey has pursued its own parochial interests even if those interests undermined the common objective of NATO. Since he came to power in 2003, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has singlehandedly taken this behavior into a whole new dimension.
As previously stated, AHI vehemently disagrees with President Donald Trump’s invitation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the White House next month. President Trump’s praise of President Erdogan as a “hell of a leader” is repugnant.
Erdogan has acted in northern Syria in a manner which is strikingly similar to the way his predecessors acted when Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus in 1974. In northern Syria, Turkey has unlawfully used its military to force the local Kurdish population from the Syrian territory which it has invaded. In order to alter its ethnic character, Turkey is settling ethnic Arabs in this territory. Similarly, when Turkey invaded the Republic, it violated the treaties to which it was a signatory, which created the Republic in 1960, as well as international law.
Turkey forced the Cypriot citizens of Greek ethnicity from their homes and businesses in the northern portion of the territory of the Republic. It transported Turkish nationals to the territory of the Republic which Turkey occupied and settled them in the homes and businesses of these Cypriot citizens. Turkey then established an administration which it called the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”
Turkey cannot, nor makes, any effort to justify either of these invasions and occupations as being consistent with the common policy of NATO. But these invasions are only the most egregious events which demonstrate the pattern of Turkish behavior to pursue its parochial interests rather than the U.S. and NATO policies and objectives which Turkey is obligated to support. A close second egregious event in this pattern is the deployment by Turkey of Russian S-400 missiles, an act which benefits the precise adversary which NATO member states are sworn to oppose.
There are numerous other events which evidence this pattern. Turkey routinely violates U.S. arms control laws which require that U.S. supplied F-16s and other aircraft be used only for legitimate self-defense. Every time Turkey orders F-16s and other aircraft to fly toward Greek airspace and Flight Information Region (FIR) over the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, Turkey violates U.S. law. Turkey drills in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus, an act which is unlawful under international law and which has been condemned by the U.S. and the European Union (EU). Turkey has enabled ISIS fighters to transit Turkish territory to sell oil and other products and provided other support to ISIS. Turkey openly supports Hamas and its policies which violates the security of Israel. Moreover, Erdogan stated he “cannot accept” restrictions that keep him from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, the Trump administration has stated its focus is the protection of religious and ethnic minorities in the region. Organizations such as AHI are all too familiar with Turkey’s suppression of religious freedom for minorities within Turkey, including the Turkish government’s tolerance of assaults upon Greek Orthodox Christian community and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual home of the world’s oldest and second largest Christian Church, all in violation of U.S. and international law.
Unfortunately, since the unlawful Turkish invasion of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, six U.S. presidential administrations have indulged and sometimes abetted Turkish policies even though they were contrary to U.S. and NATO interests. This is a significant reason why the Turkish invasion of northern Syria has occurred. Although protests by U.S. policymakers against the invasion are proper in substance and wholly justified, they ring hollow and lack credibility. The United States’ appeasement of Turkey’s demands is endless and must stop. Otherwise, Turkey will continue with its aggressive and provocative acts, which are egregious, without fear of repercussion.
Legislation Introduced to Sanction Turkey, Turkey’s Invasion Draws Bipartisan Outcry
AHI commends the introduction of legislation in Congress aimed to send a strong message to Turkey that its invasion of Syria will not go unpunished. AHI applauds the following sponsors of various bills that will sanction Turkey, if enacted: U.S. Senators James Risch (R-ID) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), the heads of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). AHI calls for sanctions to be enacted swiftly.
Senator Graham wrote in a series of tweets: “Our legislation builds upon the Administrations’ [sic] 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.
“Erdogan’s invasion of northeastern Syria has created the conditions for the reemergence of ISIS and the destruction of our allies. These outcomes must not only be addressed by the Administration but by Congress as well.”
In a written statement, Senator Van Hollen, said: “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 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. Finally, in the wake of an ISIS resurgence in Syria, it demands a strategy from the Administration to defeat them and stabilize the region.”
In a joint statement from the heads of the House Foreign Affairs Committee stated:
“I strongly condemn both President Erdogan’s decision to attack America’s partners in Syria and President Trump’s decision to step back and let it happen. The Turkish assault on the Syrian Kurds is a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS, and a blow to our national security interests,” said Chairman Engel. “The sanctions we are introducing will hold Erdogan accountable for this stunning disruption to international security. Congress must continue to work in a thorough, bipartisan manner to address the disastrous consequences of President Trump’s decision.”
Ranking Member McCaul said, “Turkey’s military operation has already resulted in civilian casualties and threatens global security by creating conditions that will enable an ISIS resurgence. It must stop its incursion immediately. The purpose of our bill is simple: it compels those individuals and institutions in Turkey that are carrying out this deadly and counterproductive offensive to withdraw.”
European Union, NATO Reaction
In an October 14 statement, the European Union stated: “The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region, resulting in more civilians suffering and further displacement and severely hindering access to humanitarian assistance. It makes the prospects for the UN-led political process to achieve peace in Syria far more difficult. It also significantly undermines the progress achieved so far by the Global Coalition to defeat Da’esh, stressing that Da’esh remains a threat to European security as well as Turkey’s, regional and international security…. In this context, and taking into account the fact that Turkey’s military action with its dramatic consequences is still ongoing, the EU recalls the decision taken by some Member States to immediately halt arms exports licensing to Turkey.”
“I count on Turkey to act with restraint & ensure that the gains we have made in the fight against ISIS are not jeopardized,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a tweet.