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U.S. Republican Hopeful Slams Obama Over Armenian Genocide Recognition


U.S. -- President Barack Obama speaks at the Moving America Forward rally in Philadelphia, 10Oct2010

U.S. -- President Barack Obama speaks at the Moving America Forward rally in Philadelphia, 10Oct2010

A Republican candidate in the U.S. mid-term elections has condemned President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies controlling Congress for reneging, so far, on their pledges to formally recognize the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.


In a last-minute attempt to win over ethnic Armenian voters in her New Jersey constituency, Anna Little also faulted the Obama administration for lending what she called insufficient support to Armenia in its difficult relations with Turkey and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Karabakh Armenians “continue to face the specter of genocide,” she claimed, pointing to “the ever increasing war rhetoric emanating from the Azerbaijani regime.”

“In the elections of 2008, the Democrats swept into power with their leaders on record in support of U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” Little said in a statement obtained by RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “However, they have failed to deliver on their promises in every way.”

“The Democratically-controlled Congress and Democratic Administration lured voters into a false sense of hope and failed to stand with the Armenian-American community on this fundamental promise,” she charged.

US - Congressman Frank Pallone, Undated
Little is locked in an unexpectedly tight contest with Democratic incumbent Frank Pallone, one of the most pro-Armenian members of the U.S. House of Representatives who has long championed U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Pallone is also one of the two co-chairmen of the congressional Armenian Caucasus, a bipartisan group of more than 150 legislators. His reelection bid was endorsed last week by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), one of the two main Armenian-American advocacy groups.

The Armenian community in the United States has been dismayed by Obama’s failure to honor his repeated campaign pledges to refer to the World War One-era massacres as genocide once in office. The U.S. president has implicitly attributed his stance to an unprecedented rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey that began shortly after he took office.

Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime backer of Armenian-American issues, caused more controversy when he implied, in an Internet video that surfaced last week, that President Serzh Sarkisian himself asked the administration and Congress not to press ahead with genocide recognition for now. The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan effectively denied Biden’s claim over the weekend.

Obama’s Republican election rival, Senator John McCain, refrained from calling the mass killings and deportations of Ottoman Armenians a genocide during the 2008 presidential race. But he did declare in November last year that “genocide was committed against the Armenian people” and that “there is ample documentation of that.”

In her statement, Little said that she “will not rest” until a draft genocide resolution, which was narrowly approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March, is passed by the full chamber, if she defeats Pallone. “We cannot afford to break another promise,” said the Republican challenger.

Whether her party shares this view is an open question. The Republicans have traditionally opposed Armenian genocide bills, citing Turkey’s geopolitical importance to the United States.

Virtually all Republican members of the House panel voted against the latest resolution in March. Some of them subsequently reconsidered their position amid a sharp deterioration of Turkey’s relations with Israel.

The draft resolution has still not reached the House floor despite being backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more than a hundred other lawmakers. One Armenian-American leader told RFE/RL on Monday that the Armenian lobby still hopes to push it through the House before new legislators take office in January. In any case, he said, the mid-term elections “will be more than consequential for us.”
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