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Politics

Turkey Pressured N.Y. Legislature to Kill Gianaris Resolution on Cyprus

ALBANY — Turkey’s Consul-General in New York sent a letter to the New York Legislature’s Senate Finance Committee to squash a resolution by Sen. Michael Gianaris marking the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s unlawful invasion of Cyprus.

Neither the Turkish Consulate nor Consul-General Reyhan Özgür, who signed it  have registered for lobbying activity, said The Albany Times Union, which is required if an organization spends more than $5,000 conducting them.

https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/turkey-s-consul-general-pressed-ny-lawmakers-19376120.php

Lawmakers said it was unprecedented and an apparent attempt to influence the votes of Finance Committee members, who must advance all resolutions for them to receive a full vote in the state Senate.

The letter claimed an “intentionally distorted interpretation of the history” of the conflict and warned the resolution “could deeply cause resentment and feelings of injustice among the members of law-abiding Turkish American community.”

“Given the magnitude of the possible side effects of the bill, Senate and its valuable members should refuse to be part of provoking animosity between the constituents of American society by promoting one social group over unwarranted claims for the sake of alienation of others,” Özgür wrote.

Gianaris, a Queens Democrat said the resolution was written with caution although members of the committee don’t vote on them, making the letter essentially irrelevant apart from allowing the Consul-General to air his feelings.

“We were very careful to state facts. I suppose they must think that the facts are objectionable,” Gianaris said, calling the message a first. “If the Turkish government finds indisputable facts problematic, that’s on them more than anyone else,” he said. The anniversary will be in July.

Lobbying regulations don’t seem to address if a consulate official is considered a government official for the purposes of lobbying on legislative action, the paper said. Özgür asked lawmakers to “refrain from dignifying the bill.”

But his letter came too late as the committee had already sent the resolution to the Senate floor, where it generated little argument, such procedures generally garnering little attention. “We dignified it unanimously,” Gianaris said.

The Consulate has also in part been tied to a federal probe on certain activities of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who visited Turkey several times. Federal officials are examining Adams’ campaign for evidence it conspired with Turkish officials to accept illegal contributions. The Consulate did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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