Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Interview with Congressman Frank Pallone

An Interview with Frank Pallone
By Khatchig Mouradian

The following interview with Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) was
conducted on March 23 in Washington. He is co-chair of the Congressional
Caucus on Armenian Issues.

Armenian Weekly-On March 9, together with 16 colleagues, you introduced a
bill allowing Cypriot-Americans to seek compensation for their property in
Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus. What is the importance of this bill?

Frank Pallone-We don't recognize the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus.
Those who occupied Northern Cyprus took the property of Green Cypriots
without permission and appropriated it for their own purposes. The people
who own the land should either be able to go back or get compensation, and
the Turkish government has done nothing to provide compensation.

A.W.-Whenever Cyprus, the Kurds or the Armenian Genocide resolution come up,
one of the most common arguments heard is that Turkey is changing and that
we should wait until it comes to terms with its past rather than pressuring
it and potentially causing a backlash.

F.P.-I would differentiate between the government and the people. I think
that increasingly the public, particularly the intellectuals and educated
people, would like to see Turkey become a member of the EU, recognize the
Armenian Genocide, get out of Cyprus, and not treat the Kurds as lesser
citizens. I, too, believe that the Turkish people are moving towards a
democratic society, respect for human rights, but the leadership, the
government, doesn't share that. They continue to have a hard line on almost
every one of the issues I mentioned. I hope that at some point the
leadership catches up with the public. But that's not happening now. I don't
know when that will happen, but I just think at some point it will and we
just have to keep agitating and keep saying that the government policies in
Cyprus, and against the Armenians, against the Kurds are not acceptable.

A.W.-There is constant talk that Turkey and the Bush Administration are
putting enormous pressure on Congress so that it drops the Genocide
resolution. Can you talk about the specific actions taken by Turkey and the

F.P.-Every time Congressmen and elected officials go to Ankara or Istanbul,
they are lectured for hours about how the Genocide didn't occur. And they
receive threats about how if the Genocide resolution is passed, the soldiers
in Iraq are not going to be safe and that they are not going to provide any
help in the U.S. efforts in Iraq (not that they have done much anyway).
There's a combination of genocide denial and threats against American
soldiers and American policies. Congressmen have to hear about how genocide
never occurred, how we should have a commission that looks into what
happened, how Turks always treated the Armenians so well, and there were
even Armenians in the government in 1915.

They are doing the same thing here. They go around to the Members [of
Congress] and lobby them. In some cases, they have even had soldiers in Iraq
call Members of Congress and say, "I'm afraid the Turks are going to punish
us in some way if you pass the Genocide resolution."
And the administration goes along with it and does the same thing. They call
the Members, they meet with the Members, they say this is going to threaten
American soldiers, or they suggest that there was no genocide. It's

I don't think the threats have any impact. They have increasingly moved from
threats toward more denial, because I think the threats have backfired. And
I believe denial never ceases. You still have the denial of the Holocaust.
The German government put up monuments commemorating the Holocaust and Iran
is having conferences saying the Nazi Holocaust never occurred. Even some
Americans say it never happened.

There will always be people out there denying the Genocide. If the people
accused of committing genocide are one's ancestors or friends or somebody
they respect, one doesn't believe or doesn't want to believe that they are
capable of it.

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