While the rhinoceri rush to prepare the way for Turkey's entrance into the EU, one non-rhinoceros has turned up in the US: Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who has noticed that just as Turkey is about to join the democracies of the EU, it has passed an interesting new law: if you affirm the Armenian Genocide as a fact or dissent from Turkey's illegal occupation of northern Cyprus in the enlightened, secular land of Ataturk, you can get ten years in the slammer. Let them into the EU!
Here is Pallone's press release, with thanks to Looney Tunes:
Long Branch, NJ --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and a member of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, today urged the State Department to strongly condemn a new penal code adopted by the Turkish Government late last month that would punish Turkish citizens or groups with up to ten years in prison if they confirm the fact of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey or call for the end of the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus.
In a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the New Jersey congressman said that the new Section 306 of Turkey's criminal code not only hinders improved relations between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey, but it is also an imprudent step on the part of a nation that is desperately trying to establish an image of having a free and democratic society. Pallone wrote that Turkey's action represents a dramatic display of the Turkish government's campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide and further inhibit a resolution to the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus.
"Section 306 of the new criminal code does nothing to remove barriers to bilateral cooperation and lower the level of distrust and tension in this critically important region," Pallone wrote in his letter to Secretary Powell. "I urge you and the State Department to condemn this oppressive provision in the criminal code and do everything that is in your power to ensure that the government of Turkey, our NATO ally- cease to inhibit the rights of its citizens; remove its troops from Northern Cyprus; come to terms with its own history; and finally start living up to the expectations that the United States has of free and democratic nations."
Pallone voiced particular concern that Turkey's actions run counter to the goals the State Department strives to achieve in the Caucasus region. Far from coming to terms with the Genocide or reaching out to Armenia, Turkey, in adopting Section 306 of its new penal code, the New Jersey congressman wrote that Turkey is hardening its anti-Armenian stance and undermining hopes for a reduction of tensions in the region.
"I would like, for a moment, to discuss why I consider it important that the State Department not remain silent in the face of this extremely troubling restriction on freedom of expression mandated by a NATO ally," Pallone continued. "In the past, when the State Department has spoken out against an Armenian Genocide Resolution, it has argued that such legislation would not contribute to improved Turkish-Armenian relations. We have been told, recently and in the past, that the State Department and the Administration have fought so strenuously against this legislation, because its adoption would somehow harm progress in the region toward the normalization of ties between these two states.
"This line of reasoning is, in my view, deeply flawed," Pallone continued in his letter. "However, if the State Department were to seriously rely on this argument concerning improved Turkey-Armenia relations, it would stand to reason that the State Department should also publicly and privately condemn Turkey's patently hateful codification of its official campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide, the most recent attempt being in the form of a repressive and unjustified new criminal code."
Pallone also believes the Turkish Government's action toward Cyprus is not consistent with the State Department's own misguided belief that Turkey did everything possible to end the thirty-year illegal occupation of Cyprus when it supported a United Nation's plan that would have reunified the island nation. The New Jersey congressman believes Turkey's latest action proves the government in Turkey remains supportive of the continued illegal occupation of the northern end of Cyprus.