Turkish official accuses Bob Menendez of being influenced by his Armenian wife

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A Turkish lawmaker last week severely criticized a prominent US senator for prioritizing his family connections over damaging Turkey-US ties.

This article first appeared in Nordic Monitor.

Heading a parliamentary delegation to Washington, DC, Akif ÇaÄŸatay Kılıç, chairman of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee, expressed his displeasure that his interlocutor, Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee American, did not respond to his request for a meeting. .

Kılıç claimed that Senator Menendez behaved this way because his wife is Armenian and he did not want to hear the truth about the Armenian genocide.

Menendez and his wife Nadine

“We know his wife is in the Armenian diaspora. It is not fair to take political measures based on populist and family motives which could harm relations with a country, a parliament and a nation, ”Kılıç said.

“It is significant that even a dialogue is not sought here, or at least that a request for a meeting has not been answered,” he added.

In April, US President Joe Biden officially recognized the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide, making him the first US president to recognize the massacre as an act of genocide.

Turkish President’s close lawmaker Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan Kılıç did not explain why the Turkish delegation had not visited the United States and met with its counterparts before Biden’s landmark decision which was almost expected. all Turkish and Armenian circles since Biden was elected president in November 2020.

Turkish official accuses Bob Menendez of being influenced by his Armenian wife 5
Senator Ron Johnson (second from right) met with the Turkish parliamentary delegation led by Çağatay Akif Kılıç (third from right).
Turkish official accuses Bob Menendez of being influenced by his Armenian wife 6
Senator Jim Risch (left) and Çağatay Akif Kılıç

The Turkish delegation met with several senators and members of the House of Representatives last week, including Ron Johnson and Jim Risch of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Menendez. The delegation also met with representatives of the Rafik Hariri Center of the Atlantic Council for the Middle East and the United States Chamber of Commerce. Delegates also participated in a panel discussion with several experts on Turkish-US relations at the Washington office of the Turkish government-funded SETA think tank..

Contrary to what Kılıç claims, Senator Menendez has long worked for the official recognition of the Armenian genocide. A quick study of his Capitol Hill record suggests that his stance on the Armenian question is unwavering and that he was known for his pro-Armenian stance long before he was elected to the Senate in 2006.

Menendez married his Armenian fiancee Nadine Arslanian in 2020 after a relationship of several years. The couple are said to have met for the first time in 2011. Previously, they had sponsored numerous resolutions for the recognition of the genocide. In 2009, Menendez himself introduced a Senate resolution that called on the president to officially recognize “the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide”.

In April 2019, he submitted a non-binding resolution with a bipartisan group of 15 senators, including then-senator Kamala Harris, who is now vice president of the United States. Some Armenian groups praised Arslanian’s influence on the resolution, and in a Youtube interview titled “She Was the Link,” Arslanian was introduced as the Armenian woman who “influenced the passage of the bill on the Armenian Genocide in the United States “in 2020. She also elaborated on her family history of survival and her relationship with Menendez in the interview.

Ironically, in 2010, Menendez was criticized for opposing the appointment of career diplomat Matthew Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan on the grounds that Bryza’s wife was Turkish. Menendez denied that his position had anything to do with the ethnicity of Bryza’s wife, saying he was uncomfortable with Bryza’s opposition to Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian genocide and his close ties to individuals in the Turkish government.

ErdoÄŸan and Biden first met at the NATO summit in Brussels in June after Biden’s Armenian decision disappointed Turkey. ErdoÄŸan told a press conference ahead of his departure from Turkey that he would ask Biden about recognition of the Armenian genocide and express Turkey’s unease. However, responding to journalists’ questions after the one-on-one meeting, he said: “Thank goodness this issue was not raised”, drawing criticism from the opposition, who accused him of speaking out. differently at home and abroad.

Nordic Monitor previously released secret documents revealing that Kılıç, who is also vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), had past ties to a former al-Qaeda financier from Saudi Arabia. . According to the document, Kılıç, a former aide to President ErdoÄŸan, has been identified as having developed a relationship with Yasin al-Qadi, who has been listed as an al-Qaeda financier on the US Treasury and UN lists for many years. years, and his son Muaz al -Qadi (KadıoÄŸlu). The document, stamped “secret,” detailed an intercepted communication from Kılıç with al-Qadi’s son. The two seemed very friendly on the phone according to a transcript read.

After working closely with ErdoÄŸan for years, Kılıç stood for the legislative elections in 2011 on the ticket of ErdoÄŸan’s party. He was appointed in December 2013 Minister of Youth and Sports. In September 2016, Kılıç was embroiled in a major scandal with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), who interviewed him for his flagship political talk show, “Conflict Zone”.

Journalist Michel Friedman asked Kılıç about a failed military coup on July 15, 2016, the massive purges and arrests that began in the aftermath of the failed coup, the situation of the Turkish press and the place of Turkish women in the society. As the DW team prepared to leave the ministry building after the interview, the minister’s press adviser came over and told the team that they could not broadcast the interview.

When the team refused to accept, ministry officials told them they could not leave the building without handing over the video footage of the interview, after which they seized it. DW Managing Director Peter Limburg strongly condemned the Turkish authorities for their confiscation of video footage of the interview with the Turkish minister.

Kılıç was removed from his ministerial post in a cabinet reshuffle in 2017. He again stood for parliamentary elections in 2019 and was elected MP for Istanbul.

READ MORE: Turkey is hiding true death toll from COVID-19 to ‘attract tourists’.

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