Armenian Genocide Resolution: President Obama and the price of moral courage
The Armenian Genocide Resolution passed by a House committee last week merely asks Obama to tell the truth. Given Turkey’s strategic importance, that will be hard to do.
A resolution approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, in recognizing the Armenian Genocide, asks the Obama administration to endorse history at the risk of insulting a needed ally. The passing of House Resolution 252 introduces a new dynamic into the State Department’s hopes for “normalization” of relations between Armenia and Turkey.Skip to next paragraph
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The Armenian Genocide is marked as beginning April 24, 1915. On the 94th anniversary last year, President Obama decried the “great atrocities” – but defied his own campaign promise by following the precedent of other modern presidents and stopping short of using the word “genocide.”
HR 252 calls on the president to use the annual April 24 message “to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.”
The fallout over the nonbinding resolution – Turkey withdrew its US ambassador, and its prime minister called the resolution “a comedy” – makes it most unlikely that it will either pass the full Congress or nudge President Obama to call a historical fact by its proper name next month. Indeed, the Obama administration urged the committee not to pass the measure. The letdown will further erode the trust of Armenians to whom he has become davatchan – a traitor.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has vowed to stop the resolution where it stands. Mrs. Clinton was the chief diplomat behind a three-country effort shared by Russia and Switzerland last October that resulted in Turkey and Armenia agreeing to try to agree, and follow a set of “protocols” intended to work out their deep differences.
The protocols meant to be a roadmap have led nowhere, as neither country has ratified them. Armenia has even gone so far as to amend its legislation on international treaties, allowing for “the suspension or termination of agreements signed by Armenia before their entry into force.” Creating a pre-emptive exit strategy from cooperation hardly portends kumbayah in the Caucasus.
Turkey (which closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in support of Muslim cousin Azerbaijan in its war over the historically Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh) was the first to drag down the process, by insisting that rapprochement cannot carry on unless Armenia returns land it reclaimed from Azerbaijan. Turkey’s insistence on projecting Karabakh into the discussion brings to question whether protocol negotiators were literally on the same page.