The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) on Friday issued an open letter to the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Armenian Assembly calling for clarification over reports that the two organizations had sought the exclusion of the ARS from a scheduled meeting about the Armenia-Turkey protocols with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a select group of Armenian American organization. We provide the statement below:
Two weeks ago, it was announced that the U.S. State Department had invited a select group of Armenian American organizations to a meeting to discuss the Turkish-Armenian protocols and related topics, leaving out several other organizations. On many occasions, the Armenian Relief Society, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its humanitarian work this year, has participated in discussions with the U.S. administration on matters of central importance to Armenians. Therefore, the ARS wrote an official letter to the State Department requesting, as the largest women’s organization in the U.S. and the Armenian Diaspora, to participate in the meeting.
In the past few days, we were surprised to learn from the press that the AGBU leadership in the U.S. had expressed its opposition to the participation of the ARS in this meeting. The news was followed by a press release circulated by the Armenian Assembly—and bearing the signature of the AGBU as well—regarding the meeting with the State Department and Armenian American representation with convoluted language.
Whereas the Turkish-Armenian protocols are not an issue of concern to solely this or that Armenian organization or group, as they deal with a central national matter,
Whereas the right to decide on the Armenian community’s representatives to meet with the U.S. administration is up to Armenian Americans as a whole, and no organization, group, or individual can reserve to themselves the right to choose those representatives, thereby playing a divisive role in the community,
Whereas discussing such issues behind closed doors complicates matters and lends itself to unnecessary polemics,
Whereas the ARS has always been and will continue to be open with the people and has nothing to hide from it,
We therefore ask the leadership of the AGBU and the Armenian Assembly to publicly clarify their position regarding the ARS.
In our letter addressed to the U.S. State Department, we did not ask to replace any organization and we did not make any allegations about any organization. It is our sincere hope that the reports about the position of the AGBU, the positions expressed on its behalf, and the attributions made to the AGBU regarding the steps it has taken, are untrue. We hope that it will become clear that this episode is nothing more than an effort by non-Armenian circles to impose the ratification of the protocols on the Armenians and Armenia, and to sow divisions among Armenian Americans on the eve of the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. We also hope that the necessary corrections will ensue.
ARS Central Executive
Feb. 11, 2010