(photo credit: Creative Commons)
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of members of Congress has written a letter
appealing to the Turkish government to prevent a second flotilla from sailing to
Gaza this June.
“We write today to express our serious concern over
reports that the so-called Free Gaza Movement and the IHH are planning to send
another flotilla to Gaza in the coming weeks to provoke a confrontation with
Israel,” the members wrote in the letter, sent on Wednesday.
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“We ask you
to help discourage these efforts and work with the Israeli government in a
productive way as it continues to allow legitimate aid, but not weapons, to
The letter continued by stating that “Israel, like any
country in the world, must take whatever steps necessary to protect its citizens
and that starts with preventing additional weapons from entering Gaza. If
flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will
have little choice but to board the vessels and search for weapons.”
representatives warned: “We fear violence could erupt just as it did last year.
We are seeking your active participation in finding a resolution that prevents
Thirty-six members signed onto the letter, spearheaded by
Steve Israel (D-New York) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma).
letter was addressed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has
said the government cannot stop an independent group of citizens from setting
sail for Gaza. After the violent confrontation between a flotilla sent by the
Turkish organization IHH and the IDF last May, Erdogan said he had urged that
flotilla not to sail.
Many members of Congress and Israeli officials have
doubted that account, and some have even charged that the Turkish government
helped launch the flotilla.
In the Senate Wednesday, more than a dozen
lawmakers cosponsored a resolution declaring that Syrian President Bashar Assad
has “lost legitimacy” and urging US President Barack Obama to take stronger
measures against him.
The resolution “strongly condemns and deplores the
human rights abuses of the government of Syria” and warns that it was committing
international crimes for which the perpetrators will be held
While the senators welcomed the sanctions the administration
has imposed on Syrian officials believed to be behind the greatest human rights
abuse, they said they would like the president to “speak out directly and
personally to the people of Syria.”
“Bashar Assad’s legitimacy has run
out, and it is time for us to align ourselves unambiguously with the aspirations
of the Syrian people for a peaceful, democratic future,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman
(I-Connecticut), a cosponsor of the resolution.
Critics of the Assad
regime are particularly eager to see the Obama administration call Assad’s role
illegitimate, which would be a significant step toward breaking ties and urging
him to leave office rather than holding out hope that he could
Administration officials have been repeatedly asked whether Assad
retains legitimacy, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself
faced with this question during a press conference with the Danish foreign
minister during an Arctic Council meeting in Greenland Thursday.
watched with great consternation and concern as events have unfolded under his
leadership in Syria, and we are working with our international partners to make
as strong a case as possible to sanction those who are leading and implementing
the policies that are coming from the government,” she said in
“We’re going to hold the Syrian Government accountable. Now,
how that happens and what the timeline is is something that we are working on as
Earlier, in prepared remarks, Clinton said that “the recent
events in Syria make clear that the country cannot return to the way it was
She added that “relying on Iran as your best friend and your
only strategic ally is not a viable way forward. Syria’s future will only be
secured by a government that reflects the popular will of all of the people and
protects their welfare.”