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Sarkisian Meets U.S.-Armenian Critics, Backers


Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with U.S. representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Washington, 12 April 2010.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with U.S. representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Washington, 12 April 2010.

President Serzh Sarkisian met with leading Armenian-American critics and supporters of his policy of rapprochement with Turkey in Washington on Monday, it emerged on Tuesday.

The presidential press office said Sarkisian discussed “the current phase” of the Turkish-Armenian normalization process with top representatives of U.S. chapters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the nationalist party’s lobbying arm in the United States, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

A statement by the office gave no details of that discussion. It said the meeting also focused on Armenia’s relations with its worldwide Diaspora and ways of strengthening it.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with the leadership of the Armenian Assembly of America in Washington, 12 April 2010.
Earlier in the day, Sarkisian had a separate meeting with the leadership of the Armenian Assembly of America, the other major U.S.-Armenian lobby group. The Assembly has been a key Diaspora backer of his conciliatory line on Turkey and, in particular, the Turkish-Armenian normalization protocols signed last October.

“We have supported and continue to support reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey,” the Assembly said in a statement. It at the same time charged that the Turkish government “has breached and will continue to breach both the letter and the spirit of those documents.”

By contrast, Dashnaktsutyun structures around the world have been at the forefront of Diaspora criticism of that policy. The pan-Armenian party’s organization in Armenia pulled out of Sarkisian’s coalition government in April 2009 in protest against what it denounced as a sellout of Armenian national interests.

Sarkisian faced angry street protests organized by Dashnaktsutyun when he toured major Armenian communities abroad to promote the deal last fall. His Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian was snubbed by ANCA leaders when he met Armenian-American activists in Washington earlier in 2009.

Among the participants of Monday’s meeting with Sarkisian was Viken Hovsepian, a member of Dashnaktsutyun’s worldwide governing Bureau. Speaking to the Boston-based newspaper “Armenian Weekly” before the meeting, Hovsepian urged the Armenian leader to “rescind his signature from the Turkey-Armenia protocols.”

Dashnaktsutyun and several Armenian-American community groups controlled by it voiced the same demand in a joint letter to Sarkisian published ahead of his arrival in Washington. “We hope and expect … that while in Washington, you will announce that the process between Armenia and Turkey that has begun with these signed protocols cannot continue because of Turkey’s unconstructive and antagonistic posture,” they said.

The letter also urged Sarkisian to “publicly appreciate” the recent passage by a U.S. congressional committee of a resolution urging President Barack Obama to recognize the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.

Sarkisian indicated Yerevan’s continuing support for the resolution as he addressed a larger number of Americans of Armenian descent at the Washington National Cathedral shortly after his Monday talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He praised the influential Armenian-American community for its decades-long efforts at official U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide.

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