By Anna Saghabalian
A senior representative of a political party wielding influence in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora is optimistic about an imminent approval by a U.S. Congress committee of a resolution that he hopes will lay the groundwork for the World War I-era killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey to be recognized as genocide by the full House.
Giro Manoyan, Head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau’s Armenian National Committee and Political Affairs Office, said in Yerevan on Monday that the pressure mounted by Turkey and its lobbyist groups in the United States is unlikely to change the mood of congressmen, a majority of whom currently favor the bill.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Congress’ House of Representatives is due to consider Resolution 106 on Wednesday. If the resolution is approved by the Committee, it will be up to the House Speaker to decide whether to bring it to the House floor for a vote.
According to Manoyan, only one congressman has so far succumbed to pressure to withdraw his support, which, overall, shows that the bill stands a good chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled House despite opposition from the Bush administration.
“The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) initiated active work to preclude any possible changes in [congressmen’s] positions, and on October 10 the Committee will surely adopt a resolution and this resolution will be put to vote to the [full] House,” he said.
Manoyan also downplayed the impact of the statement by eight former U.S. state officials voicing concern over the possible advancement of the resolution in the U.S. Congress.
“The former secretaries of state are only eight votes in U.S. elections,” Manoyan commented, referring to the political weight of ethnic Armenian voters in the United States ahead of next year’s presidential election.
“Of course, the statements by the [former] state secretaries and even three defense secretaries will have their influence, but in the United States the opportunities of citizens’ votes are the main means to counterbalance that.”
Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) Armenia and Karabakh country director Arpi Vartanian says the main target today is to reach the passage of the resolution by the full House, since “it will mean the opinion of the House of Representatives that reflects the opinion of millions of Americans.” Vartanian added that the adoption of the resolution by the Senate is a separate activity.
She believes that the continuing Turkish pressure will not significantly influence the position of House representatives because Armenian advocacy groups in the United States, including the AAA, “work throughout the year to resist Turkish pressure by meeting U.S. congressmen and conducting explanatory work among them.”
“There are some congressmen who, of course, may withdraw their support, but I don’t think a majority will make that step. For various reasons there are good chances for the resolution to be adopted this year as there is a better understanding of what a genocide is in the United States today,” she explained.
Measures related to Armenian genocide recognition have been debated in Congress for decades, but have repeatedly been thwarted amid concerns about damaging relations with Turkey, an important U.S. ally.
Armenia and its lobbyist groups worldwide claim some 1.5 million Armenians were killed in Ottoman Turkey in 1915-1923 in an organized genocide. Meanwhile, Turkey denies that the deaths and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the beginning of last century was a result of genocide, but insists that Armenians rather fell victim to the widespread chaos in the years leading up to the Ottoman Empire’s collapse.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told U.S. President George W. Bush last week that ties between the two countries would be hurt if the U.S. Congress passed the bill.
Manoyan, however, thinks that “Turkey needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs Turkey” and in this sense he considers the threats voiced by Ankara to be of a formal nature.
“The ANCA’s stance is that these are mere threats. Experience shows that even if Turkey did something immediately to realize its threats against countries that adopted similar resolutions, later everything was restored within a short period of time,” the ARF representative said.