U.S. lobbying firms drop Turkish, Azeri clients

Lobbying firms representing Turkey and Azerbaijan are finding themselves under pressure to reconsider their relationships with both clients.

On Friday, Mercury Public Affairs announced that it was ending its relationship with the government of Turkey. The news of this decision was revealed in a press release by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)’s Western Region in California.

“As a result of our community’s persistent activism and the steadfast support of our friends in elected office, I was just informed by Fabian Núñez, who is a partner at Mercury’s Los Angeles office, that Mercury Public Affairs would be terminating its registration as a foreign agent of
Turkey,” said Nora Hovsepian Chair of ANCA-WR's Board of Directors in the statement.

Hovsepian praised the decision as “standing on the right side of history” in ending its relationship with Turkey, adding that it would serve as an example to other firms working for Turkey or Azerbaijan.

Mercury has represented Turkish interests in the United States since 2013 and was registered as an agent for both Turkey’s Washington D.C embassy and the Turkish-U.S. Business Council (TAIK). The firm had concluded a new $1 million in February to represent the embassy and as recently as last week Mercury was highlighting commercial ties between the United States and Turkey on TAIK’s behalf.

By choosing to end this relationship, Mercury is the latest lobbying firm to withdraw from contracts with Turkey or Azerbaijan.

DLA Piper, a white-shoe law firm headquartered in London, stated in a filing with the U.S. Department of Justice that it was no longer working on behalf of Azerbaijan Railways after one year working for it.

The Livingston Group, founded by former Republican congressman Bob Livingston, similarly withdrew from working for Azerbaijan on Oct. 13. This was only three months after declaring to the Justice Department it was negotiating a new contract with Baku. BGR Group also shared a filing declaring it was ending its contract with the Azeri state-owned oil company SOCAR.

Since fighting broke out on Sept. 28 territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia’s diaspora in the U.S has been actively looking for ways to build support against Azerbaijan as well as Turkey for its ironclad support of Baku. The decision by major lobbying firms to cut ties to both countries is seen as a sign their pressure campaign is bearing fruit.

Mercury has been specifically singled out by politicians and activists in California where many Armenian-Americans reside. Many U.S. politicians based in the state including the mayor of Los Angeles and many of its state and federal legislators have singled out Turkey for goading Azerbaijan into war with Armenia.

In Los Angeles, the city council called on Mercury to withdraw from its lobbying arrangement with Turkey or the city would withdraw from any business with the firm.

The letter, authored by Armenian-American Councilman Paul Krekorian, accused Turkey and Azerbaijan of seeking to continue the 1915 Armenian Genocide by engaging in the present conflict. It slammed Turkey in particular as the “worst abuser of human rights” and as a “belligerent imperialist that threatens world peace.”

“We will not engage with any firm in any capacity while it gives support to a client that so openly and unapologetically commits genocide, denies the truth of the genocide, and aids and encourages the war against the Republic of Artsakh,” read the council’s letter, using the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh.

In addition, the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) announced it would terminate its contract with Mercury over its work for Turkey.

Turkish-American and Azerbaijani-American groups have vocally supported Azerbaijan and staged their own protests against Armenia in the United States as well.

On Oct. 14, 200 protestors gathered in Washington D.C and marched from Capitol Hill to the Turkish embassy in support of Azerbaijan.

Four days later, a protest organised by the Turkish-American National Steering Committee and the Azerbaijan New York Association staged a protest in front of the United Nations against what they called Armenian aggression.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.