US CEOs Compose Letter Against Genocide Bill


WASHINGTON (Reuters) — March 2, the US aerospace and defense industry is urging House of Representatives lawmakers to reject a measure that would call the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces genocide, warning it could jeopardize US exports to Turkey.

The chief executives of the Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Raytheon Co, United Technologies Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp issued a rare joint letter, warning that passage of the measure by the House Foreign Affairs Committee could lead to “a rupture in US-Turkey relations” and put American jobs at risk.

“Alienating a significant NATO ally and trading partner would have negative repercussions for US geopolitical interests and efforts to boost both exports and employments,” the CEOs warned in a Feb. 26 letter to the committee’s Democratic chairman, Representative Howard Berman.

They noted that US defense and aerospace exports to Turkey totaled over $7 billion in 2009 and were projected to be “similarly robust” in 2010.

The nonbinding resolution, to be voted on Thursday by the House panel, would require President Barack Obama to ensure that US policy formally refers to the massacres as “genocide” and to use that term when he delivers his annual message on the issue in April — something Obama avoided doing last year.

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The Aerospace Industries Association, which represents more than 270 member companies, expressed concern in a separate letter, noting that US exports to Turkey had more that tripled to over $10 billion in 2008, and US companies were pursuing further arms sales at the moment.

“In this current economy, we cannot afford to turn our back on increasing US exports and sustaining US jobs by alienating one of our most important trading partners,” said Marion Blakey, president of the AIA, the largest US trade group.
Turkey on Monday warned that its ties with the United States would be damaged if the House panel approved the measure.

The Armenian issue has poisoned relations between NATO member Turkey and the United States in the past. In 2007, Ankara recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations after a US panel approved a similar bill.

Obama visited Turkey last April, and his administration sees Turkey as a key ally whose help it needs in solving confrontations from Iran to Afghanistan.
Muslim Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide — a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments.

Former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, chairman of the American Turkish Council, told Berman in a separate letter that the House resolution would be perceived as biased and could have a long-term negative impact on US exports.

“This will likely have a direct — and long term — negative impact on American exports and investments in Turkey, with the loss of many American jobs,” he wrote.

Ankara has said such a resolution would also hurt efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize ties.

An Armenian court last month reaffirmed the government’s obligation to seek recognition of the killings as genocide, raising questions about a Turkish-Armenian accord to normalize relations for the first time since the 1915 mass killings.

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