TURKEY'S INVASION OF IRAQ (Senate - March 28, 1995)

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I commend the Senator from Rhode Island for his principled stand on this issue and am pleased to join him as an original cosponsor of Senate Resolution No. 91, which condemns Turkey's invasion of Iraq.

On March 20, an estimated 35,000 Turkish troops poured across Iraq's northern border in a massive assault on the Kurdish guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Although Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller defended the invasion as a legitimate act of self-defense, the nature and extent of Turkey's invasion of northern Iraq belie this assertion. Accordingly, this resolution calls on President Clinton to express strong opposition to Turkey's invasion and to request that the United Nations Security Council condemn the invasion and seek an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Turkey's forces back to Turkey.

Turkey's invasion contradicts its obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which oblige Turkey to respect the territorial integrity of other states, and to support the human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the self-determination of all peoples.

I and many of my colleagues sympathize with Turkey's struggle to defeat the Marxist PKK which has been engaged in a struggle for over a decade to establish an independent Kurkish state and has adopted terrorism as the principle means toward that end. However, the nature and brutality of the tactics Prime Minister Ciller and the military have adopted to combat the PKK are unacceptable, counterproductive, and unlikely to succeed.

The invasion, besides violating the fundamentals of international law, is likely to exacerbate the conflict rather than calm it. Moreover, Turkey's action seriously detracts from its standing in the international community. For a nation seeking to convince the world--and the European Union in particular--that it is committed to democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, the invasion of Iraq and the ongoing military campaign to eliminate the PKK undermine Turkey's commitment to these principles and raises legitimate questions about the nature and extent of our relationship with Turkey.

Turkey, I fear, has fallen victim to the temptation to combat terrorism with reciprocal and punitive acts of violence more destructive than PKK acts of terrorism. The Turkish military has systematically emptied Kurdish villages and uprooted many Kurdish citizens from their homes. Human rights organizations have documented extensive human rights abuses, including torture and political assassination. The military's actions often wreak havoc and destruction on innocent Kurds and provide an incentive for Kurds to support the PKK.

I fear that relations between our two nations will deteriorate unless Turkey takes demonstrable steps to improve its human rights record, abandon the military campaign, and seek alternative solutions to the Kurdish problem. Turkey's recognition, that its Kurdish civilians have civil, cultural, political, and human rights is an essential first step. Failure to recognize these rights would be folly, for it is simply inconceivable for Turkey, if it is to remain committed to the fundamentals of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, to seek a military solution where one-fifth of the Turkish population--15 million--is Kurdish.

Turkey has long been a loyal and trusted allay and a valuable member of NATO. Like all nations, Turkey is struggling with the difficult task of defining its diplomatic, security, and economic roles in the post-cold-war era. This task is compounded by the need to combat PKK terrorism and the expansion of violent Islamic fundamentalism. However, these challenges, difficult though they may be, in no way legitimize Turkey's invasion of northern Iraq, and the United States must make it clear to Turkey that such behavior is damaging to our relationship and inconsistent with the announced goals of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.