House Foreign Affairs Committee Passes Genocide Resolution

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Turkey Recalls Ambassador to US

WASHINGTON (Combined Sources) — While on Thursday, March 4, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to approve the sending of House Resolution 252 on the Armenian Genocide to the floor of the full House, forces outside the House, including the White House and the State Department, pressured by the military contractors and the government of Turkey, agreed to press their colleagues in the House to not bring the bill to the floor at all.
“The Affirmation of the US Record on the Armenian Genocide” resolution calls on the president to “ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding” of the “Armenian Genocide” and to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide.”

The bipartisan measure currently has 137 cosponsors in the House.

Armenian-American community leaders were elated by the vote, though cautious about its future.

“The truth prevailed today, and the cause of Genocide affirmation and prevention has been furthered.  The United States record on the Armenian Genocide is clear, voluminous and unambiguous, a matter recognized by President Ronald Reagan and by President Obama in a number of campaign statements. We commend the leadership of Chairman Howard Berman and all those who supported the bill’s passage, which was introduced by Representa-tives Adam Schiff (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL),” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.

“I also want to acknowledge Representa-tives Brad Sherman, Anna Eshoo (D-CA),Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Ed Royce for the pivotal role they played throughout this process,” he added Ardouny. “The pan-Armenian community letter sent a message to Congress that Armenian-Americans speak with one voice when they call on their legislators to affirm the historic US record on the Armenian Genocide and to honor the memory of the American diplomats and humanitarians that came to the rescue of the survivors.”

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He was not the only one delighted with the turn of events.

“I obviously am very pleased that it passed. I think Berman was very clear that Turkey has no say in how the US Congress votes. The decision is up to the House leadership whether to schedule it to vote but I’m sure if it is put to the floor that the majority will do the right thing when they vote,” said Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America.

Angered Turkey

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that relations with the US would be seriously affected and recalled its envoy to the United States for consultations.

“The decision of the Foreign Affairs Committee will not hurt Turkey, but it will greatly harm bilateral relations, interests and vision. Turkey will not be the one who loses,” said Erdogan, speaking at a summit of Turkish businessmen.

The Obama administration made a last-minute appeal against the resolution and has vowed to stop the vote, which was broadcast live on Turkish television, from going further in Congress. A Democratic leadership aide told Reuters Friday there were no plans “at this point” to schedule a vote of the full House on the measure, and a State Department official said this was the administration’s understanding as well.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, facing questions about the issue while traveling in Latin America, declared Congress should drop the matter now. “The Obama administration strongly opposes the resolution that was passed by only one vote in the House committee and will work very hard to make sure it does not go to the House floor,” she said in Guatemala City.

Turkey has said the resolution could jeopardize a fragile drive by Turkey and Armenia to end a century of hostilities and lead to further instability in the south Caucasus, a region crisscrossed by oil and gas pipelines to Europe. Turkey’s ambassador to the United States told journalists upon his return on Saturday it was unclear when he would head back to Washington following his talks with the president, prime minister and foreign minister.

“I will return when the time is right … We will have to wait and see,” Namik Tan said. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted in a media report as saying that the consultations could last “a long time.”

Turkey said on Tuesday it will not send its ambassador back to Washington until it gets a “clear sign” on the fate of a US resolution branding the 1915-era killings of Armenians by Turkish forces as “genocide.”

Berman Delivers on Promise

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman was moving in his speech to his colleagues before the measure passed.
He said, “Turkey is a vital and, in most respects, a loyal ally of the United States in a volatile region. We have also been a loyal ally to Turkey, and should continue to be so. Be that as it may, nothing justifies Turkey’s turning a blind eye to the reality of the Armenian Genocide. It is regrettable, for example, that Turkey’s Nobel-Prize-winning novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was essentially hounded out of his native country for speaking out on this subject. Now I don’t pretend to be a professional historian. I haven’t scoured the archives in Istanbul looking for original documents.

“But the vast majority of experts — the vast majority — academics, authorities in international law, and others who have looked at this issue for years, agree that the tragic massacres of the Armenians constitute genocide.”

He introduced to the record a letter from the International Association of Genocide Scholars which stated that “The historical record on the Armenian Genocide is unambiguous and documented by overwhelming evidence.”

He also quoted Prof. Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Raphael Lemkin, both of whom had written at length about the Armenian Genocide.

“Nearly two dozen other countries — including France, Canada, Russia, Switzerland and Chile — have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. So has the European Parliament. As the world leader in promoting human rights, the United States has a moral responsibility to join them,” Berman continued.

“At some point, every nation must come to terms with its own history. And that is all we ask of Turkey. Germany has accepted responsibility for the Holocaust. South Africa set up a Truth Commission to look at Apartheid. And here at home, we continue to grapple with the legacies of slavery and our horrendous treatment of Native Americans. It is now time for Turkey to accept the reality of the Armenian Genocide,” he said. “I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.”

Armenia Hails Vote

Armenia on Friday hailed a vote by US lawmakers to brand the killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I as “genocide,” calling it an important step forward for human rights.

“We highly appreciate the decision,” Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said in a statement. “This is another proof of the devotion of the American people to universal human values and is an important step toward the prevention of crimes against humanity.”
Officials in Yerevan also said Ankara should not use the vote as a pretext for delaying fledgling reconciliation efforts.

Armenia insists that a deal signed in October for the two countries to establish diplomatic ties and re-open their border after decades of hostility should not be linked with the genocide issue.

“It is groundless to say that the acceptance of the resolution… should become an obstacle to normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey,” the head of a parliamentary committee studying the protocols, Armen Rustamian said.

“The United States supports the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey without preconditions and the best way for the United States to show that these processes are not related is to recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

Surprising Defection from Delahunt

The Foreign Affairs Committee’s Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), a veteran member from Massachusetts, whose delegation traditionally supports as a whole measures to recognize the Armenian Genocide, chose to not support the bill this time around.
Delahunt, who is not going to seek reelection, said, “The adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution 252 may hamper Armenian-Turkish normalization. For this reason, I oppose the adoption of the resolution.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) praised the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s passage of a resolution he authored recognizing and commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

“The facts of history are clear, well documented, and non-negotiable. One and a half million Armenians were deliberately murdered in the first genocide of the 20th century. If we are to avoid this horrific crime in the future, we must be willing to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs,” said Schiff. “Today’s Committee passage clears a major hurdle in moving this resolution forward. I will be working with my colleagues to ensure floor action for this important bill.”

The Armenian Genocide has been recognized by more than 20 nations including Canada, Italy, Sweden, France, Argentina and Russia, as well as the European Parliament.

(Agence France Presse, PanArmenian.net and Reuters contributed to this report.)