A leading Armenian-American lobby group urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday to recognize the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide and end “pressure” on Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during her upcoming visit to Yerevan.
“We view Secretary Clinton’s trip to the region as a chance to get things right, a chance to turn around a set of failed policies toward Armenia and the region,” Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Hamparian singled out U.S. policy on Turkish-Armenian relations and the genocide issue in particular. “The secretary can really help set things on the right track,” he said. “The best way for her to do is to honor the pledge that she made, that our President Obama made [as presidential candidates] to recognize the Armenian genocide. It would be wonderful if she would do that at the genocide memorial in Yerevan.”
Both Clinton and Obama have refrained from using the word “genocide” with regard to the mass killings and deportations of Ottoman Armenians during World War One after the U.S. presidential race. The Obama administration is also opposed to a draft congressional resolution urging it to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide.”
Administration officials have said the passage of the resolution would seriously harm Washington’s relations with Ankara and the U.S.-backed rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey.
Hamparian claimed, however, that U.S. recognition of the genocide would actually facilitate Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. “Armenia-Turkey relations will never improve, will never see progress unless the issue of the Armenian genocide is dealt with truthfully and justly,” he said.
“The American policy needs to be based on what our values are and also what our interests are,” he added. “And our interests and values are aligned with the truth and justice, and that where we need to be as a country.”
Hamparian, whose Washington-based group is connected with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, also criticized the administration’s policy towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which he said favors Azerbaijan. Clinton should use her trip to end Washington’s “non-stop pressure on the Armenian side to accept something that is not democratic,” he said, referring to the basic principles of the conflict’s resolution favored by the U.S., Russian and French mediators.
The proposed framework agreement calls for a gradual settlement based on the combination of the principles of territorial integrity of states and peoples’ right to self-determination. Armenia’s government accepts it as “a basis for negotiations.”
Dashnaktsutyun and other Armenian opposition groups have repeatedly rejected this peace formula. “If we were to take the principles that America and the State Department is applying to the Karabakh conflict, if they were applied back in 1776, they would have resulted in America remaining a part of the British Empire,” Hamparian said.