In his inaugural speech, President Obama stressed that the rule of law would be fundamental in his administration. Referring to national security he said. “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

As his first year in office comes to a close on January 19, 2010, it is clear that Obama has not applied the rule of law to the State Department’s positions on Turkey. Let’s look at the record regarding Turkey and Cyprus, Turkey and the Aegean, Turkey and human and political rights and Turkey and religious freedom.

Turkey and Cyprus

The State Department continues to refuse to refer to Turkey’s aggression in Cyprus as invasion and occupation in violation of the UN Charter and the North Atlantic Treaty. The provisions of the UN Charter violated by Turkey are the preamble, article 1(1) on the purposes of the UN Charter which states that one purpose is “To maintain international peace and security,” and article 2 paragraph (4) of the Charter, which states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

The State Department refuses to support the rule of law by its failure to call for the prompt removal of Turkey’s 43,000 illegal occupation troops.

Turkey is in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949, Section III, article 49, which prohibits colonization by an occupying power. Article 49 states in its last paragraph: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Over the past 35 year Turkey has colonized the occupied 37% of Cyprus with 180,000 settlers/colonists!

It also refuses to support the rule of law by its failure to call for the prompt return to Turkey of the 180,000 Turkish citizens’ illegally brought to the occupied part of Cyprus to change the demographics of Cyprus.

The U.S. is a party to the Geneva Convention of 1949 and obligated to enforce its provisions.

The Department also refuses to apply and enforce the provisions of U.S. law which prohibits U.S. arms to Turkey from being transferred to Cyprus. Turkey has been in violation of U.S. law by its transfer from Turkey to Cyprus of 12 U.S. –supplied M-48 tanks and other arms. The State Department spokesperson, Adam Ereli erroneously stated that the transfer is not in violation of U.S. law because the tanks transferred to Cyprus are under the control of the Turkish military.

Since December 22, 1987, 22 U.S.C. § 2373 absolutely prohibits the transfer by Turkey of U.S. supplied arms to Cyprus without regard to whether the arms remain in the control of the Turkish military.

It also refuses to uphold the rule of law by its failure to call for the immediate removal from Cyprus of U.S. arms illegally transferred from Turkey to Cyprus.

Turkey and the Aegean

Turkey has made an outrageous claim to one-half of the Aegean Sea in total disregard of all the relevant international treaties and agreements in force and has engaged in provocative activities in the Aegean. Turkey continues to threaten Greece with war (casus belli) and promotes claims that are unfounded and devoid of any legal basis.

The European Union’s “Turkey 2009 Progress Report” states:

“The threat of casus belli…the resolution adopted by The Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1995 still remains. According to the Council conclusions of December 2008, ‘Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to good neighbourly relations and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter….

A considerable number of formal complaints were made by Greece about continued violations of its airspace by Turkey, including flights over Greek islands”
The State Department also refuses to uphold the rule of law by its failure to state publicly the law governing the maritime boundary in the Aegean which the U.S. is obligated to do as we are a signatory to the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. State has also failed to condemn Turkey’s violations of Greek territorial waters and airspace.

Turkey and human and political rights

Turkey still denies its 15-20 million Kurdish minority (20%) full human and political rights. Turkey has committed outrageous crimes against humanity in the treatment of its Kurdish minority: 3,000 villages burned to the ground; 3,000,000 refugees; 30,000 Kurds killed by Turkey’s military; 17,000 Kurds assassinated by Turkey’s para-military squads. (See Eric Rouleau, “Turkey’s Dream of Democracy,” Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2000; pp 100-114.)

The State Department refuses to support the rule of law by its failure to call for full human and political rights for Turkey’s 20% Kurdish minority.
Turkey and religious freedom

The Turkish government has tolerated assaults against the remaining 2,500 Greek Orthodox Christian minority in Istanbul and the Ecumenical Patriarchate; continues the illegal closure of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology and refuses to return 7,000 church properties which were illegally seized.

In an important interview on CBS “60 Minutes” program the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew dramatically exposed Turkey’s violations of religious freedom and in response to a question whether he felt crucified, he responded “Yes, I do.”

It also refuses to apply to Turkey U.S. laws on religious freedom.

There have been important occasions when the State Department stood up and applied the rule of law to Turkey. When Turkey threatened Cyprus over Cyprus’ demarcation of oil and gas exploration zones, US ambassador to Cyprus, Frank Urbancic stated that Cyprus is a sovereign nation and was in full accord with the rule of law.

Obama has not conducted a serious review of U.S.-Turkey policy. It is time he did. It should include Turkey’s policies regarding Iran, Syria, Sudan and Israel which are contrary to U.S, views and policies.

Gene Rossides is founder of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury