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American Hellenic Institute Foundation Holds Washington, D.C. Conference on U.S. Policy Toward Turkey
November 24, 1998 No. 51/98 (202) 785-8430



On November 21, 1998, the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) in cooperation with the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, the Hellenic American National Council, and the Hellenic American Women's Council held a conference in Washington, D.C. on the subject of "The United States and Turkey: The Challenges For American Foreign Policy."

The following are the highlights.

Keynote Speakers
The Keynote address "Turkey at 75: Problems and Prospects" was given by Professor Harry Psomiades, Director of the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, New York. He stressed the urgent need for democratic reform in Turkey for the sake of peace and stability. He called for efforts to "take the military out of politics."

Ambassador Monteagle Stearns, U.S. Ambassador to Greece from 1981-85, gave the luncheon address entitled "Turkey: Strategic Bridge or Strategic Island?" He dismissed the concept of Turkey as a "bridge" to the Arab and central Asian countries, arguing instead that Turkey's outmoded institutions had turned it into an "island." He called upon Greece, particularly government, political, and civic leaders, to adopt a self-confident policy that sought to heal rather than exacerbate recriminations and tensions with Turkey.

The conference addressed the following main themes and policy proposals:

* Amid a global movement toward democracy Turkey is a glaring exception;
* Under the influence of an entrenched military caste, the Kemalist political system in Turkey is in crisis;
* Turkey is conducting a pattern of consistent aggression against its neighbors;
* Turkey's human rights record is horrendous and deteriorating. U.S. support of Turkey makes the U.S. an accessory to Turkey's human rights violations;
* Through its policy of double standards, overestimation of Turkey's strategic importance, and failure to apply the rule of law, U.S. policy is damaging U.S. interests in the region; and
* Greece, Greek Cypriots and Greek Americans have no dispute with the Turkish people whose brave strivings for democracy, justice, and human rights they support. Their dispute is with the military-controlled Turkish government.

Policy Proposals
* The U.S. should conduct a critical review of its policy toward Turkey;
* Congress should conduct hearings on U.S. policy toward Turkey;
* Non-governmental organizations should intensify their human rights monitoring activities in Turkey;
* As the only Southeast European member of both NATO and the European Union, Greece should project itself as a factor for regional stability;
* The U.S. should consider the potential for a collective security system in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East; and
* The Greek American community should remain vigilant over Turkey's widespread propaganda and attempts to influence the U.S. political process to the detriment of the rule of law, American values, and U.S. national interests. At the same time, it should work toward a policy of mutual reconciliation and forgiveness. The cycle of recrimination and the resultant arms race needs to be ended.

Session A: Turkey and Human Rights in the 20th Century
The panel, moderated by Mr. James Marketos, Chairman, American Hellenic Institute, reviewed Turkey's record of genocides in Asia Minor and its current genocidal war against the Kurds. Speakers faulted the Turkish military for failing to find common ground with its non-Turkish citizens and engaging in "ethnic cleansing" by a program of "systematic Turkification." Military interference distorted Turkey's legal system, so that the administration of justice violated normal standards, with the use of torture being commonplace. Speakers called for heightened U.S. vigilance on human rights.

* Professor Constantine Hatzidimitriou, St. John's University, New York, spoke on "The History of Turkey's Genocides and Crimes against Humanity in the 20th Century." He gave a chronology of Turkey's genocides and crimes against humanity. He commented that "no nation has such a consistent record of massacres as Turkey."
* Professor Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, Professor of English emeritus, Barnard College and author of Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City spoke on "The Smyrna Catastrophe: Turning Point in U.S. Foreign Policy."
* Aram Hamparian, Executive Director, Armenian National Committee of America discussed the "Armenian Genocide" and "The Turkish Blockade of Armenia." He warned of the dangers in the Turkish military build-up.
* Professor Hanna Freij, University of Utah spoke on "Turkey, the U.S. and the Quagmire of the Kurdish Question." He stated that the Kurdish question presented Turkey with a "crisis of identity" and that "the military denies the existence of the Kurdish people."
* Neil Hicks, Senior Program Coordinator, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights reviewed "Turkey's Human Rights Violations." He set out the deficiencies in the Turkish justice system and the activities of non-governmental organizations seeking to bring about reform.

Session B: The Domestic Context
The panel, moderated by Dr. Dean Lomis, Director Emeritus, University of Delaware International Center, reviewed the means used by Turkey to exercise influence within the U.S.

* John Tirman, Executive Director, the Winston Foundation for World Peace spoke on "U.S. Arms and Human Rights." He drew attention to the harmful affect on human rights in Turkey arising from the U.S. arms sales program and highlighted the "extraordinary influence over the political system in the U.S." arising from Turkey's planned 20-year $120 billion weapons procurement program. This has brought Turkey enormous support with the Pentagon. Tirman commented that the "Joint Chiefs of Staff were the only people to whom Turkey listened."
* Dr. Van Coufadakis, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, Indiana spoke on "Penetrating the U.S.' Universities." He described Turkey's program to gain influence by establishing Turkey-friendly chairs at U.S. universities such as UCLA, Princeton, and Portland State. The conditions attached to these gifts or attempted gifts to these institutions amount to a "threat to U.S. academic integrity."
* Nick Karambelas, Partner, Sfikas, Karambelas and Akaras, LLP spoke on "Lobbying and Turkey's American Apologists." He detailed the lobbying firms working as 'registered foreign agents' for Turkey in Washington, D.C. at a cost of several million dollars annually.

Session C: Panel I: The Political Strategic Context
Turkey's regional role was the subject of two panels. The first, moderated by Professor John Iatrides, Southern Connecticut State University, reviewed political-strategic considerations, the rule of law, and the politics of Caspian Sea oil.

* Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice-President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, CATO Institute spoke on "The U.S. and Turkey: A Study in Double Standards." He criticized the U.S. for failing to apply to Turkey the rule of law and the three key principles of U.S. foreign policy: democracy, human rights, and resistance to aggression. This amounted to a "fawning willingness to overlook Turkey's human rights violations." The policy of "double standards needs to be abandoned on prudential and pragmatic grounds before it causes a tragedy."
* Alan Makovsky, Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute for Middle East Studies reviewed "The U.S. and Turkey: The Strategic Relationship." He put the case for the U.S. geostrategic interest in a pro-western, non-fundamentalist Turkey and for Turkey's potential role as a gateway to the Turkic speaking countries of central Asia and the Caspian region
* Dr. Spero Vryonis, Director, The Speros Basil Vryonis Center for the Study of Hellenism spoke on "American Foreign Policy in the Ongoing Greco-Turkish Crisis as a Contributing Factor to Destabilization." He highlighted the Administration's mistaken policy of giving precedence to Turkey's military caste rather than to the people as a whole.
* Andreas Andrianopoulos, Fellow, the Woodrow Wilson Center spoke on "Shattered Dreams: The Politics of the Caspian Sea Oil." He stated that Turkey's role as a conduit for Caspian oil was exaggerated. The latter would never amount to more than 3-4% of world consumption and commercial considerations should determine the choice of pipeline routes.
* Dr. Athanasios Platias, Institute for International relations, Panteion University, Athens described "Turkey's Strategic Role: Myth and Reality." He pointed out that following the end of the Cold War "the traditional value of Turkey does not exist any more." He concluded that "Turkey's stock is overvalued."

Session C: Panel 2: The Political-Strategic Context
This panel, moderated by Ms. Dora Hancock, President, Hellenic American Women's Council, examined Turkey's relations with Israel, its contribution to the Gulf War, and the U.S. approach to Cyprus.

* Dr. Marios Evriviades, Institute of International Relations, Panteion University, Athens reviewed "Turkey, the U.S. and Israel." He outlined the long history of the Turkish-Israel connection and pointed out that the emergence of the Turkish relationship with Israel as a de facto military alliance raised troubling questions about its regional purpose.
* Dr. Christos Ioannides, Chairman of the Faculty, The Speros Basil Vyronis Center for the Study of Hellenism spoke on "Bush, Ozal, and the Gulf War." He pointed out that Turkey never directly contributed fighting forces to the U.S. led coalition and that Turkey's actions, were "self-interested and inevitable" rather than a voluntary contribution to the allied war effort. Today, Turkey does not share the U.S. interests in removing Saddam Hussein because this might strengthen the Kurdish forces.
* Phillippos Savvides, University of Utah spoke on "Turkey's Domestic Crisis and the U.S. response: Implications for the Eastern Mediterranean." He faulted U.S. policy for "strengthening the military and weakening democracy." He commented that the "Islamist challenge was fueled by the political elite."
* Eugene T. Rossides, President, AHIF, spoke on "The State Department and Turkey: A Study in Lawlessness and Appeasement." He detailed Secretary Kissinger's violations of law regarding Cyprus, his encouragement of the coup against President Makarios, and Turkey's invasion of Cyprus. He stated that the persistent failure of U.S. administrations, under the leadership of the State Department, to apply U.S. and international law against Turkey regarding Cyprus and the Aegean amounted to participation on Turkey's side.

The conference attracted over 100 distinguished participants, including the Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus. At the luncheon, Ms. Dora Bakoyianni, Member of the Greek Parliament, delivered a greeting in which she extended a hand of friendship from the people of Greece to the people of Turkey. She described Turkey as suffering from "aggressive paralysis" and called Greece the "agent par excellence of regional stability."

A wide range of opinion was debated, with question and answer sessions being especially lively and discussion continuing well after the conference adjourned.

The conference proceedings will be published in 1999.