Just hours before the Trump Administration’s term in office was set to expire, thousands of miles across the Atlantic in Ankara, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey signed an agreement with the Republic of Turkey, effectively signing away thousands of years of non-Turkish history and cultural heritage, to the Turkish government.
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield signed the agreement on behalf of the U.S. Department of State together with Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Ersoy, on January 19 in Ankara.
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) strongly condemned the signing of the agreement. AHI has been advocating vigorously against this request since January 2020, to the State Department and the Congress.
“It is unconscionable that the State Department, during the 11th hour of the Trump administration, would even consider entertaining, let alone agree to, such a proposal by the government of Turkey, in the light of its conversion of the Hagia Sophia and persecution of religious minorities within the country, as well as religious leaders such as the Ecumenical Patriarch.
AHI’s statement called the act “insulting” and called upon the Biden Administration to reserve the decision.
“In this context, it is particularly insulting and absurd the U.S. government’s official press release announcing the Memorandum of Understanding references ‘Turkey’s longstanding religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity,’” Nick Larigakis said. “We call upon President Biden not to enforce the Memorandum of Understanding, which is in his authority to do.”
AHI’s Legislative Director Elias Gerasoulis added, “Despite this setback, AHI will continue to work with our multi-pronged coalition, including our partners at the Global Heritage Alliance, to fight against religious property agreements that harm the interests of religious minorities, particularly in Turkey. Given the State Department’s atrocious decision to grant Turkey’s request, and that of other MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries with human rights and religious abuses, the State Department’s process of approval of cultural property agreements merits a closer look.”
Peter Tompa, executive director of the Global Heritage Alliance, said, “The State Department has rushed through a controversial cultural property MOU at the very end of the Trump Administration in an obvious ploy to avoid giving the incoming Biden Administration a second look at an agreement that will provide de facto US recognition to Erdogan’s claims to ownership and control of the communal and religious property of displaced Greek, Armenian and Jewish populations.”
Strong reactions came also from the Armenian National Council of America, the Hellenic American Leadership Council and In Defense of Christians, who issued a joint statement, also condemning the signing of the deal between the Trump Administration and Turkey.
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