The U.S. House of Representatives is putting national security officials on notice over a proposed small arms sale to Turkey in yet another example of continued fallout from the violent brawl that took place outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in May.
An amendment sponsored by Michigan Republican Representative Dave Trott is leveraging the potential sale of semi-automatic handguns to Turkey, to pressure Ankara to coordinate with the investigation and prosecution of Turkish security officers who assaulted peaceful protestors in Washington D.C. in May.
The amendment is part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, passed in the House of Representatives on Friday. The text serves as a warning to the State Department that moving forward on an arms deal to Turkey will face heavy congressional scrutiny.
In May, the New York Times reported that the State Department had informally notified Congress of a proposed sale of 1,600 Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistols to Turkish security officers.
Should the deal move forward, the State Department will be required to formally notify Congress, at which time the House can propose legislation to stop the deal.
The informal notification came a day before Turkish security officers in the U.S. with visiting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked a number of protestors outside the Turkish ambassador’s Residence in Washington D.C.
D.C. police issued arrest warrants for 12 of Turkish officers last month, but didn’t comment on whether they would seek extradition.
The Turkish government maintains that the protestors are members of the Kurdish-militant group PKK, which they designate a terrorist organization. D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said last month that police had no indication any of the protestors were terrorists.
Since the assault, a number of lawmakers have expressed outrage about the impunity with which the Turkish forces acted and have demanded action, including the call to ban the approval of sales of the small-arms and also blocking the sale of F-35A fighter jets to the NATO ally.
Rep. Trott’s amendment provides “that the proposed sale of semi-automatic handguns to the Turkish Government should remain under scrutiny until a satisfactory and appropriate resolution is reached in regards to the events that took place on May 16, 2017.”
In a statement following the passage of his amendment, Rep. Trott praised NATO allies for taking steps against Turkey and urged the State Department to follow suit.
“Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed our NATO allies take extraordinary steps against Turkey, and it’s time for the State Department to do the same.”
Rep. Trott was referring to punitive actions taken by the governments of Germany and the Netherlands against Turkey as criticism for actions by Ankara.
The German Foreign Ministry told President Erdogan not to bring his bodyguards to last week’s G20 summit in Hamburg, a direct reaction to the fighting that took place in D.C.
Other actions Germany took against Turkey include the decision to withdraw its troops from the country, after Ankara blocked German officials from visiting Incirlik Air Force Base.
In March the Netherlands blocked a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who had planned to address a political rally in Rotterdam, because of “risks to public order and security.”
“We need to block this arms sale and once and for all point a finger in Erdogan’s chest and tell him that a strategic location does not place Turkey above the law,” Rep. Trott said.
The Michigan Republican also added his name to an amendment proposed by Rhode Island Democrat Rep. David Cicilline, seeking to block funds from the defense budget from being used for the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, until President Trump can certify that Ankara is cooperating with the criminal investigation and prosecution of the accused Turkish security officers.
Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic deflected from questions related to the extradition of accused Turkish security officers, saying it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the ongoing legal process in the U.S. and that he is only following the case.
Speaking at a press conference at the Turkish Embassy Friday, commemorating the one year anniversary of a failed coup attempt in that country, Mr. Kilic said that the May 16 incident was a “stand alone issue.”
Regarding congressional proposals to the Defense Authorization Act blocking funds to transfer F-35s to Turkey, the ambassador said it would be unfortunate to tie the violence outside the residence to the security deal.
“It would be unfortunate to tie that issue to the [F-35 fighter jet deal]. [The U.S.] are our allies, because I mean we are allies we have displayed solidarity, after all — I know we have to increase our interoperability and our collective defense.”
Asked if he believes Congress is making a bad move, Mr. Kilic answered, “Of course. Of course.”