Daily Sabah, Turkey
June 29 2014


Ragıp Soylu

WASHINGTON, D.C. ` A controversial anti-Turkey bill passed through the
U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Foreign Affairs on
Thursday after a week following pressure from the Turkish government,
weakening Turkish-American relations in a time of regional crisis in
the Middle East.

The Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act directs the Secretary
of State to report annually to Congress until 2021 on the status and
return of confiscated or otherwise unreturned Christian churches,
places of worship and other properties in or from the Republic of
Turkey and in Northern Cyprus. The bill describes Northern Cyprus as a
land occupied by the Turkish military.

Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National
Committee of America, praised the move and congratulated senior
members of the committee, including Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican
congressman from California, which has a considerable Armenian
population, who also sponsored the bill. The Armenian American lobby
has conducted a large campaign to gather support for the bill within
the committee.

Turkish officials said that despite their lobbying efforts and their
own interactions with the representatives, they had failed to block
the progress of the bill. "Congressmen tend to seek more support from
their constituencies in upcoming congressional elections this fall. We
can say that the Armenian [American] lobby was successful merely
because of elections politics," a Turkish official added.

In a statement released by Turkish Foreign Ministry it was said that
"while the clear and concrete steps that Turkey has taken for the
improvement of the rights and freedoms of all of its citizens,
including for the non-Muslim minorities are evident; attempts by
anti-Turkish circles in the US Congress, driven by domestic political
considerations, to push such unconstructive and baseless initiatives
are unacceptable. That these circles have focused on the heritage of a
single religion, and have neglected negative developments occurring at
the expense of other religions and their heritage is inconsistent with
universal values and contrasts starkly with the multi-culturality of
the United States."

It is not clear whether the bill will be discussed in the general
assembly. Turkish officials vowed to work against the bill, and
Turkish American lobbies in Washington and New York are disappointed
by the result.

Ali ınar, a well-known name within the Turkish-American community and
former head of the Federation of Turkish American Associations, said
that Turkish people must meet federal and local representatives to
prevent a further deterioration of relations between the two
countries. "We will meet federal officials this summer and work to
convince them not to support these bills," he said in an email being
circulated within the community.