Resolution vote sends the wrong message to Turkey

A Turkish proverb says “A wise man remembers his friends at all times; a fool, only when he has need of them.” This is a telling phrase from a nation with which the United States has a longstanding and strategic partnership. Our friendship with the Republic of Turkey dates back to World War II and since that time Turkish troops have stood shoulder to shoulder with American troops in defense of freedom and justice. Most recently, we have worked together to combat terrorism and bring stability to the Middle East. And we have forged an economic partnership which has benefitted both our nations. So valued is this friendship that President Obama, during his first bilateral overseas trip, described our relationship as a “Model Partnership.” 

Turkey plays an invaluable role in assisting our efforts to combat international terrorism. In Afghanistan, Turkey has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for reconstruction efforts and humanitarian aid and operates hospitals and schools that serve hundreds of thousands of individuals. Turkey also has helped train members of the Afghan National Police and the National Army, a vital task that will help transfer sole security responsibilities to the Afghan government. 

Economically, Turkey represents billions of dollars and thousands of American jobs to our country. In recent years the United States has exported more than $10 billion worth of goods there annually and this number continues to grow. In addition to exports, Turkish industries continue to grow and develop to the benefit of businesses in the United States in which they invest. 


More broadly, Turkey is a key diplomatic partner in a challenging and sometimes hostile region of the world. As the only secular democracy with a predominantly Muslim population, Turkey is uniquely poised to work with surrounding countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Iran. These ties can only serve to help the U.S. in our own dealings with the region, as well as in promoting regional energy security, and assisting in the Middle East peace process. 

It is troubling then that at this time of great economic and military challenge, the United States Congress would deliberately take actions which would damage our friendship with such an important ally. This week the House Foreign Affairs Committee will be considering H. Res. 252, a non-binding resolution which labels the deaths of ethnic Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman Empire in World War I as genocide. This is a highly contentious issue and an event still being debated by historians. This legislation, while legally meaningless in the U.S., would most certainly be seen as a slap in the face to Turkey and a harpoon to U.S. relations with the country. Equally concerning, it also has the potential to undermine the current rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia. 

Turkey and Armenia have made great strides on their own in improving relations between their two countries. For some time, the United States, Switzerland, and other nations have actively been supporting the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia. These efforts have helped spur protocols essential to these developments. Once ratified, these protocols will establish diplomatic relations, open common borders and foster commerce between these neighbors. These measures are presently before both parliaments for ratification, so this process is at a sensitive stage. The consideration of H. Res. 252 in the U.S. Congress will undermine these positive developments and could permanently derail the restoration of diplomatic ties and normal relations between the two nations. It also sends conflicting messages to Ankara and Yerevan that the United States is serious about helping these neighbors to reconcile.   

As a global leader, the United States must continue to play an active role in ending atrocities throughout the world. And as friends and allies, we should always be able to tell Turkey how we really feel when we disagree with their policies and actions. But the “Armenian genocide” issue remains a matter of debate by historians, making it dangerous for politicians to make conclusive historical claims.   

A vote on this resolution will do nothing to rectify the tragedies of the past, but it will most certainly have significant negative consequences on current and future U.S. relations with Turkey and the Armenia-Turkey normalization process. The ties that bind Turkey and the United States are strong and will continue to be strong as we combat threats to both our nations and work to bring stability to the Middle East. At this decisive juncture in history, the U.S. Congress should heed the call of the old Turkish proverb and do all that we can to foster our friendship, instead of recklessly endangering it. 

Reps. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldBottom Line Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? MORE, Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOvernight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Congress hunts for offramp from looming shutdown fight House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November MORE and Steve Cohen are 
Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Turkey