US-Turkish Trade Summit of California Officials Canceled Due to Armenian Genocide Deniers

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July 2, 2021, 5:45 p.m. – A business discussion between Californian business leaders, the state lieutenant governor and Turkish business leaders ended following reports that two participants were vehement deniers of the Armenian genocide of 1915.

The event, hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce as part of its US-Turkey Business Council, was to feature an opening speech by Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis and a presentation from the state’s Economic Development Department. before a round table.

Also on the agenda were Turkish Chamber official Ayhan Zeytinoğlu and Turkisk Orange County businessman Ergun Kirlikovali.

Zeytinoğlu and Kirlikovali had issued several statements denying the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide, a nickname recently recognized by President Joe Biden and the US Congress.

Kounalakis’ participation was striking, as she – along with Governor Gavin Newsom and most members of the California state legislature – strongly supported efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

In a statement released Friday, the spokeswoman for Kounalakis said the state’s second-in-command, as well as California officials from GO-Biz and all other California business leaders participating in the panel had withdrawn from the event, forcing a cancellation.

The event and the backgrounds of two Turkish participants, in particular, were first reported by The Sun.

In a statement released to The Sun, Kounalakis said the participation went against the state’s values ​​on human rights issues.

“I was deeply disturbed to learn that the next meeting of the US-Turkey Business Council will feature panelists who are Armenian Genocide deniers,” Kounalakis said. “Now and always, California stands firmly on the side of truth and justice for this still unpunished crime.”

Despite the en masse Withdrawal of attendees, the US House has yet to remove the event’s listing from its website on Friday night.

July 2, 2021 5:30 a.m. – California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, once a diplomat for the Obama administration, is expected to walk some sort of diplomatic tightrope next week in her new role.

Task? A virtual address to key Turkish business leaders to discuss US-Turkish trade next Wednesday.

The tightrope: what else but the Armenian genocide?

Kounalakis is expected to deliver a pre-recorded keynote address to the US-Turkish Business Council, hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, his office told The Sun.

Ayhan Zeytinoğlu, vice president of the Union of Chambers and Stock Exchanges of Turkey (the Turkish equivalent of a national chamber of commerce), is expected to be the main Turkish participant in the event.

In addition to an overview from the California Governor’s Office for Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), a panel of California business leaders is expected to provide attendees with information on the state’s climate.

Panelists include Teichert, Inc. president Mary Teichert, California Manufacturing and Technology Consulting chief Jim Watson, UnitaClub owner Ego Alpay, and Integrated Polymer Industries president Ergun Kirlikovali.

Kirlikovali, a resident of Orange County, previously served as president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, a national federation of Turkish cultural associations based in the United States.

Kirlikovali and Zeytinoğlu have each issued multiple statements denying the Armenian Genocide, a review of their public comments by The Sun revealed.

At the end of April, as President Joe Biden officially recognized the Armenian genocide for the first time since a 1981 speech by Ronald Reagan, Kirlikovali shared a website filled with content denying the 1915 massacre of around 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Meanwhile, Zeytinoglu issued a clear and stern condemnation of Biden’s statement on April 24, saying the Turks rejected the term.

The head of Turkish affairs also delivered a striking condemnation of Israel amid an upsurge in hostilities between Hamas and the Jewish state.

California, home to a disproportionate Armenian American population, is one of the leading states in the United States for Armenian Genocide recognition and education.

Kounalakis, for his part, made several public statements acknowledging the Armenian genocide.

During a visit to the KZV Armenian School in San Francisco last August, Kounalakis doubled his position.

“California political leaders – governors, lawmakers and myself – have made it clear that Armenians were victims of the genocide in the 20th century and that the violence they suffered must never be inflicted on anyone again. She said in prepared remarks. .

His appearance at school came amid hostilities between Armenia, the Armenian government of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The vandals labeled the Armenian ethnic school with slurs.

Kounalakis does not intend to address participants’ Armenian Genocide denial during her presentation next week, her press secretary Katie Hanzlik told The Sun.

“The lieutenant governor will participate in the event via a pre-recorded video message and simply deliver welcoming remarks on the topic of business opportunities in California,” Hanzlik said in a statement, adding that the format does not allow for direct engagement.

As Kounalakis aims to welcome business opportunities from Turkey, key lawmakers in the state legislature seek to extend economic sanctions to Turkey for its human rights record – starting with its reluctance to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Currently, the Senses. Anthony Portantino (D – La Cañada-Flintridge), Scott Wilk (R – Santa Clarita) and Andreas Borgeas (R – Fresno) lead a bill to allow public pension systems to divest from issued or owned investment vehicles of the Republic of Turkey.

California state law has already mandated the state’s two largest public pension systems – CalPERS and CalSTRS – to divest from specific Turkish investments and cease all further investment in Turkey in accordance with U.S. sanctions.

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