The leading Armenian organizations in the United States expressed conflicting views on Armenia’s dramatic rapprochement with Turkey as President Serzh Sarkisian started on Thursday a week-long intercontinental visit aimed at addressing Diaspora concerns about the U.S.-backed process.
Sarkisian will spend the next few days touring major Armenian communities in France, the United States, Lebanon and Russia and discussing his conciliatory policy on Turkey with their prominent members. “I am not going in order to convince them, I am going to listen to them and tell them what I think,” he told the presidential Public Council on Wednesday.
According to a statement issued by his office, Sarkisian will first meet in Paris on Friday with leaders of Armenian community leaders from France and other European nations. He will then proceed to New York for similar discussions with representatives of the larger and more influential Armenian-American community. Among those invited to the meeting are leaders of a U.S. chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the most vocal critics of the Turkish-Armenian agreements announced on August 31.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Dashnaktsutyun’s Central Committee in the eastern United States said it has accepted the invitation. “But, let us be clear: We will attend this meeting because we do not want to forgo an opportunity to voice our strong and uncompromising opposition to these dangerous protocols,” it said. “We will do so directly and forthrightly, letting the president know that the protocols he defends actually betray the national rights of the entire Armenian Nation: Armenia, the Armenian Diaspora, and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The statement said Sarkisian’s charm offensive is “not only late but lacking in political and moral sincerity” as both Yerevan and Ankara have made clear that they will sign the two fence-mending protocols without any changes whatever the outcome of the ongoing debates in both countries. It also reiterated Dashnaktsutyun’s arguments against a deal which the nationalist party says will make it harder for the Diaspora to gain greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide. “The protocols will satisfy the articulated aims of today’s Turkish government to silence the enduring and still unanswered ‘Armenian Question,’” the statement said.
The Dashnaktsutyun-controlled Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is one of the two main Armenian groups that have for decades been lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass a formal genocide resolution. The other, more moderate group, the Armenian Assembly of America, has been far more supportive of the thaw in Armenia’s relations with its historical foe.
The Assembly joined on Thursday the Diaspora’s largest charity, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, as well as two U.S. dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church in issuing a statement that welcomed Sarkisian’s policy and the controversial agreements in particular. “The protocols announced on August 31st represent a marked change from the past,” they said. “Turkey has now publicly committed to establish normal relations without preconditions, and the process has yielded remarkable progress.”
“The path ahead will not be easy and will undoubtedly involve new twists and turns along the way. That makes it all the more important to understand that this is not the time to advance other agendas at the expense of Armenia's future,” the statement added in a thinly veiled attack on Dashnaktsutyun. “At this critical moment, we believe that the President of Armenia deserves our support.”
The Dashnaktsutyun statement deplored such views, claiming that they are not shared by the majority of an estimated one million Americans of Armenian descent. “We consider it likely that -- for whatever reason -- this minority will continue to maintain that unjustified position,” it said.