By Armen Zakarian in Yerevan and Harry Tamrazian in Prague
U.S. Congressman (D) Adam Schiff had meetings today with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Speaker of the Parliament Armen Khachatrian, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and foreign minister Vartan Oskanian. Adam Schiff arrived in Armenia on 21 August.
Adam Schiff is a member of House Committee on International Relations. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representative in 2000, defeating Republican incumbent, James Rogan, who was one of the impeachment managers of former President Bill Clinton. Schiff represents a large Armenian community in his Los-Angeles district. He is a staunch supporter of Armenian issues, including the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
According to the presidential press service, Adam Schiff and President Kocharian discussed the work of the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation commission and U.S.-Armenian relations. Kocharian expressed his support for the idea of Turkish-Armenian dialogue, adding that it should include the broad spectrum of the Armenian Society. "Considering the fact that this is a very sensitive and delicate issue, it would be desirable to discuss all the issues related to the Armenian-Turkish relations on the state level, which Armenia has never avoided, or with the possible broad involvement of the political forces, proceeding with coordinated steps," Kocharian said. The Armenian President said U.S.-Armenian relations are entering a higher level.
Speaking to RFE/RL today in Yerevan after his meeting with President Kocharian, the Democratic Congressman Schiff said he and his colleagues from the bipartisan congressional Caucus on Armenian issues are planning to reintroduce a new resolution on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He added, however, that the leadership of the U.S. House of Representative would try to block the bill before it reaches to the House Floor, as they did it last year. Adam Schiff expressed hope that the passage of the resolution will be successful.
Commenting on the dialogue between former high ranking Armenian and Turkish diplomats, the U.S. Congressman said that he has some reservations on how the members of the Armenian delegations were selected. Schiff expressed doubt that the composition of the Armenian delegation in the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation commission reflects the opinions of wide sections of the population. He pointed out that if the members of the reconciliation commission are not representative of society, the results of the commission's work will not be trusted by the Armenian people.
"I am also concerned that the Genocide issue is not included in the agenda of the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation commission," Schiff said, adding that the commission's work will create obstacles for genocide discussions in the U.S. Congress, because the argument will be made that the Armenian and Turkish peoples have got together and they are willing to take the genocide issue into their own hands.
However, the Democratic Congressman stressed that he supports the dialogue between two peoples on the private and state level. During his meetings today with the Armenian leadership, Schiff discussed also Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as strengthening U.S.-Armenian economic ties.