By Emil Danielyan
The two main Armenian lobby groups in the United States have warmly welcomed Hillary Clinton’s nomination as secretary of state, citing her stated support for U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide and the strengthening of America’s relations with Armenia.
"We are certainly pleased to see that, for the first time in recent memory, an individual with a strong record in support of Armenian Genocide recognition will serve as America's Secretary of State," Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) , said in a statement issued late Monday.
"Never before have we had such an alignment whereby the incoming President, Vice-President and Secretary of State have a clear and demonstrated record of support for affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, as well as genocide prevention," said Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA).
Both Clinton and her erstwhile Democratic Party rival, President-elect Barack Obama, pledged to described as genocide the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the U.S. presidential race. As senators, they co-sponsored relevant draft resolutions in the U.S. Congress that were blocked by the Bush administration under strong pressure from Turkey. Former President Bill Clinton likewise opposed such resolutions, pointing to the strategic character of Washington’s relations with Ankara.
“I believe the horrible events perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians constitute a clear case of genocide,” Hillary Clinton said in a January message to the Armenian-American community. “I have twice written to President Bush calling on him to refer to the Armenian Genocide in his annual commemorative statement and, as President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The former U.S. first lady also promised to “expand and improve” U.S.-Armenian relations. “As President, I will expand U.S. assistance programs to Armenia and to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” she said.
Turkish leaders have already urged Obama to stick to the outgoing U.S. administration’s policy on the subject that has avoided the use of the politically sensitive word “genocide” with regard to the 1915 killings.
Some Armenian political circles are increasingly worried that Ankara might try to exploit its ongoing diplomatic dialogue with Yerevan for convincing the new U.S. president to renege on his campaign pledge. A leader of the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party warned last month that President Serzh Sarkisian will endanger U.S. recognition of the genocide if he agrees to a Turkish-Armenian academic study on the subject proposed by Ankara.
Sarkisian indicated earlier this year he does not object, in principle, to the idea of Turkish and Armenian historians jointly determining whether the World War One-era massacres constituted a genocide. His predecessor, Robert Kocharian, rejected the idea out of hand. Many in Armenia and especially its worldwide Diaspora view it as a Turkish ploy designed to scuttle the genocide’s recognition by more nations and the U.S. in particular.