By Ruzanna Stepanian and Atom Markarian
Armenia welcomed on Friday the endorsement by a U.S congressional panel of two resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide and expressed hope that they will be passed by the full House of Representatives.
“We welcome the decision by the House International Relations Committee and consider it to be yet another step towards international recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” the spokesman for Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, Hamlet Gasparian, told RFE/RL.
“We hope that the issue will be put before the full House of Representatives and that it will discuss and adopt the resolutions,” Gasparian said.
The resolutions urge President George W. Bush to “accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide” and call on Turkey to “acknowledge the culpability of its predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire.”
Their overwhelming approval by the House panel on Thursday was also welcomed by leaders of Armenia’s main political parties represented in parliament. But they were mostly skeptical about the resolutions’ chances of reaching the House floor, suggesting that the United States will not jeopardize its strategic relations with Turkey.
“It is very good that such resolutions were passed,” said Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the governing Republican Party of Armenia. “But America now wants to settle its relations with Turkey.”
“What happened a few years ago will happen again,” said Artashes Geghamian of the opposition National Unity Party. “That will underscore the importance which the United States attaches to Turkey’s role in this region while being a friend of the Republic of Armenia.”
Geghamian was alluding to a similar resolution that was passed by the House panel five years ago only to be blocked by Speaker Dennis Hastert at the request of then President Bill Clinton. The administration of President George W. Bush is also opposed to any U.S. declarations describing the 1915-1918 mass killings as genocide. But it is not clear if the White House will similarly try to thwart the passage of the pro-Armenian bills.
There was no immediate reaction to Thursday’s congressional votes from Turkey which denies that what happened in its territory 90 years ago constituted a genocide and has condemned 16 countries that have recognized the Armenian tragedy. In a letter to House International Relations Committee members, the U.S. State Department warned that the debate "could damage U.S.-Turkish relations and could undermine progress by Ankara and Yerevan as they begin quiet talks to address the issue and look to the future."
But Gasparian disagreed. “I wouldn’t like to link the resolutions adopted by third countries to Turkish-Armenian relations,” he said. “As far as I know, the parliaments that have recognized the Armenian genocide urged Turkey in one way or another to normalize its relations with Armenia.”
(Photolur photo: Hamlet Gasparian.)