In a development hailed by Armenian-American lobby groups, a pro-Armenian congressman has been named to become the next chairman of a key committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ed Royce, the Republican co-chair of the 135-member Congressional Armenian Caucus, will take over the House Foreign Affairs Committee starting from next January.
Royce is known as a strong supporter of congressional draft resolutions recognizing the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. He has co-sponsored several such bills. None of them was adopted by the full House.
Royce, whose California constituency has many ethnic Armenian voters, was one of the main authors of a December 2011 House resolution that urged Turkey to return Armenian and other Christian worship sites to their “rightful owners.” He was also among those U.S. lawmakers who praised a presidential election held in Nagorno-Karabakh this summer.
“As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Royce has been a champion on fundamental human rights concerns from Armenian Genocide affirmation to securing Turkey’s return of confiscated Christian churches and properties,” Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), said in a statement on Wednesday. “The ANCA looks forward to working with him in the next Congress on a broad range of Armenian American concerns.”
“We look forward to working with Chairman Royce and the members of the Committee to advance mutually shared goals,” read a separate statement by Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA).
The ANCA and the AAA did not say if they will seek to capitalize on Royce’s new position and make a fresh attempt to have the U.S. Congress recognize the Armenian genocide.
The two lobbying groups came very close to pushing a corresponding draft resolution through the previous, Democratic-controlled House two years ago. That effort failed despite enjoying the backing of then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders.
A virtually identical resolution was introduced in the current Republican-led House of Representatives in June 2011. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has still not debated it.
Republican lawmakers have generally been less supportive of Armenian genocide bills than their Democratic colleagues. The current House Speaker John Boehner has opposed such measures in the past.