Defense, Middle East, New in Lobbying, Regional conflicts

Turkey arms export lobbying falls prey to Armenia conflict

Turkey’s efforts to unblock a congressional hold on arms sales to Pakistan are the latest lobbying casualty of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Greenberg Traurig ended its representation for Turkish Aerospace Industries on Oct. 29, according to a new lobbying filing. The termination came two days after the firm stopped representing the Embassy of Turkey, which Politico first revealed on Nov. 6.

Greenberg Traurig did not respond to a request for comment about the new filing but previously said that the termination of its embassy contract was due to “a number of factors including the wide range of regional conflicts.” Armenian-American groups have launched a full-on campaign to get lobbying firms to drop Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey amid the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnically Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan.

Ankara-based Turkish Aerospace Industries hired Greenberg Traurig in mid-July for $25,000 per month to help unblock a congressional veto on a $1.5 billion sale of 30 of its T-129 attack helicopters to Pakistan, Foreign Lobby Report first reported July 28. The defense contractor is owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation and the Presidency of Defense Industries, both of which are under the purview of the Turkish Ministry of National Defense.

Turkey needs US approval for the sale because the gunship’s CTS800 engine is jointly made by Rolls-Royce and Honeywell, a US company. The top Democrat and Republican on the House and Senate foreign affairs panels are blocking the sale amid bipartisan furor over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system, Defense News reported in August. The congressional hold remains in place, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

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The contract was supposed to run for four full months, until mid-November. The lobbying filing indicates the firm has only been paid $75,000, $25,000 short of the total.

Greenberg Traurig had four lobbyists on the account: senior director Albert Wynn, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland, along with attorney Robert Mangas, senior director Randy Forbes and director Laurie McKay. The firm also hired Capitol Counsel as a subcontractor on the account for $12,500 per month. That firm registered former congressman Charles Boustany, Republican of Louisiana, along with fellow partner Charles Towner French and principal Allegra Han. Capitol Counsel did not respond to a request about whether it had terminated its work for Turkish Aerospace at the same time as Greenberg Traurig.

From July through October, Greenberg Traurig lobbyists held videoconferences and teleconferences with staffers for House Foreign Affairs Committee staffers as well as aides to Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and to Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.), David Trone (D-Md.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.).

A week before Greenberg Traurig, Mercury Public Affairs also ended its $1 million lobbying contract with the Turkish Embassy in Washington after coming under fire from the powerful Armenian-American diaspora.

Meanwhile former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) terminated his Livingston Group‘s registration as a foreign agent of Azerbaijan just three months after telling the US Justice Department that he was in the process of negotiating a contract with Baku, Foreign Lobby Report first reported Oct. 15.

And DLA Piper terminated its connection with Azerbaijan Railways CJSC effective Oct. 16. The firm registered as a foreign agent for the national state-owned rail transport operator in October 2019 with the goal of providing “legal advice and assistance relating to US sanctions on Iran that affect
the transport of oil, gas, and other petrochemical products that originate in third countries and that transit through Iran.”