Pence: 'There will be a cost' for Turkey drawing toward Iran

Democratic and GOP lawmakers put Turkey on notice Wednesday, saying “there will be a cost” for that country’s increasingly cozy relationship with Iran.

GOP Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), a self-described proponent of Turkey, turned on the U.S. ally due to the country’s role in the recent flotilla incident in the Middle East. Turkey also voted against Iran sanctions at the United Nations last week.


Pence said he told the Turkish ambassador last week that “with regard to Capitol Hill, with regard to the Congress of the United States, there will be a cost if Turkey stays on its present heading of growing closer to Iran and more antagonistic to the state of Israel.”

Pence made the remarks at bipartisan event to highlight a letter signed by 126 members of Congress to the president warning the administration not to support a U.N. investigation into the recent bloody flotilla incident.

In late May, Israeli commandos attempted to stop a flotilla whose operators said it was delivering humanitarian aid to residents in Gaza.

The lawmakers blamed Turkey for orchestrating the flotilla that resulted in a bloody fight after commandos boarded one of the boats and were met with resistance.

Democratic lawmaker Rep. Shelley Berkley (Nev.) said “Turkey’s on a charm offensive” this week, but she won’t meet with representatives of the country until she sees “a change of policy.”

“They will not come into my office, they will not be welcome in my office until I see a change of policy. Because I think the current trajectory the Turkish government is on is not only dangerous for Israel, it’s dangerous for the United States of America,” Berkley told reporters.

From her seat as chairwoman of the Transatlantic dialogue, Berkley said, “[Turkey doesn’t] deserve [EU] recognition until they start behaving more like the European nations and a whole less like Iran.”

Berkley added that she would “speak actively against” Turkey’s bid to become a part of the European Union.

Pence, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Turkish position on Israel “may” influence his decision to reverse his position on a controversial bill on calling the killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire a genocide.

The third-ranked House GOP lawmaker explained that in the past, he sided with Turkey on that issue, not because he believed there wasn’t an Armenian genocide but because “tens of thousands of American troops are in harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq and dependent on resupply routes greatly facilitated by Turkey.”

But Pence told the Turkish ambassador that his opposition to the Armenian genocide bill “may no longer be the case. It is disappointing to see Turkey taking this new posture, currying favor with Iran, facilitating and being complicitous in a confrontation with Israel, and they need to understand, going forward in the future, there will be a cost.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, also opposed the Armenian genocide bill in the past, but said that might change if Turkey continues to “move away from the Ataturk principles of secular Islam.”

The Turkish embassy did not respond to comment for this article.

This story was updated at 2 p.m.