WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) strongly condemns the U.S. State Department’s January 19 decision to agree to Turkey’s request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which imposes import restrictions on cultural goods originating prior to 1924 or the formulation of the Turkish Republic. AHI has been advocating vigorously against this request since January 2020, to the State Department and the Congress. Additional AHI engagement on these issues is available online: https://bit.ly/2M7ztm9 and https://bit.ly/2KzM4Ou.
“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 Aghia Sophia and persecution of religious minorities within the country, as well as religious leaders such as the Ecumenical Patriarch. In this context, it is particularly insulting and absurd the U.S. government’s official press release announcing the agreement references ‘Turkey’s longstanding religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity,’” Larigakis said. “We call upon President Biden not to enforce the MoU, which is in his authority to do.”
AHI 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.”
In addition, Peter Tompa, Executive Director, 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 U.S. recognition to Erdogan’s claims to ownership and control of the communal and religious property of displaced Greek, Armenian and Jewish populations.”
More information is available online: https://www.ahiworld.org.