By Emil Danielyan
President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday congratulated Barack Obama on his historic victory in the U.S. presidential election and expressed confidence that U.S.-Armenian relations will grow closer during his presidency.
Obama’s election triumph was welcomed by influential Armenian organizations in the United States that expect the new U.S. president to end Washington’s refusal to recognize the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
“I am confident that during the years of your presidency Armenian-American relations will gain a new quality and political and economic cooperation between our countries will deepen to the benefit of our friendly peoples,” Sarkisian said in a congratulatory message to Obama.
“The largest structures in the Armenian-American community have repeatedly relayed to me their enthusiasm for the changes promised by you to the American people,” he said. “I highly appreciate your awareness of and approaches to issues facing the Armenian people.”
It was an apparent reference to Obama’s repeated public characterizations of the 1915 massacres as genocide and his support for relevant draft resolutions circulating in the U.S. Congress. As recently as on October 31 the Illinois Democrat reaffirmed his pledges to recognize the genocide if elected president. Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, is known for an even stronger advocacy of genocide recognition.
"The Armenian Genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulted in the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, and approximately 1.5 million of those deported were killed,” his campaign said in a statement sent to the Armenians for Obama pressure group. "Barack Obama strongly supports passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106) and will recognize the Armenian Genocide," it added.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which officially endorsed Obama’s presidential bid, praised the statement, saying that it will continue to “work hard” for the Obama-Biden ticket. Both the ANCA and another major lobbying group, the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), were quick to welcome the election result.
“Given Senator Obama's and Senator Biden's strong record with respect to affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey should heed calls to come to terms with its genocidal legacy,” the AAA said in a statement.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, expressed hope that Obama will stick to the outgoing U.S. administration’s policy on the subject that has avoided the use of the word “genocide” with regard to the 1915 killings. "We hope that some theses raised during the election campaign will stay there [in the past] as campaign issues," Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.
"The relations between Turkey and America are determined not by changing [U.S.] administrations but by the strategic nature of our ties, which we believe will continue," he said, according to the AFP news agency.
In its October 31 statement, the Obama campaign also called for continued U.S. assistance to Armenia and the expansion of U.S.-Armenian ties. “As president, Obama will maintain our assistance to Armenia, which has been a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” it said. “An Obama administration will help foster Armenia's growth and development through expanded trade and targeted aid.”