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The Kurdish Refugee Crisis: A Crisis for U.S. Foreign Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: JONATHAN CLARKE

January 13, 1998 No. 01/98

THE KURDISH REFUGEE CRISIS:
A CRISIS FOR U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

In a letter of January 12, 1998 the American Hellenic Institute expressed great concern about the current outflow of Kurdish refugees from Turkey. Many commentators have likened this to ethnic cleansing and genocide. Indisputably, this human exodus points to an underlying sickness in the Turkish body politic. It should prompt the U.S. Government to review its Turkish policy.

Turkey's international relations are in disarray. It now has strained relations with its two most important neighbors, the European Union and the Islamic world. For many Europeans the Kurdish exodus provides further evidence for Turkey's abysmal human rights record and thus confirms that the decision taken at the December 1997 EU summit not to include Turkey as a prospective EU member was correct.

U.S. policy needs to react to this unhealthy state of affairs. At present, an over-emphasis on military thinking is turning Turkey into a virtual U.S. protectorate. This is greatly to the disadvantage of the U.S. It associates the U.S. with Turkey with human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing and encourages Turkey to provocative excesses, for example, Turkey's current Aegean exercises.

AHI General Counsel Eugene T. Rossides stated: "The plight of the Kurds illustrates the moral bankruptcy of our policy toward Turkey. U.S. policy needs to return to its national traditions as the defender of human liberty. So long as Turkey continues to violate basic human rights, it should receive no U.S. economic or military aid."