BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in contrast to previous State Department positions, refrained from direct opposition to the Armenian Genocide resolution, when responding to inquiries Thursday at two separate hearings in Congress.
In response to a question from Arkansas Republican John Boozman, whose incomplete sentences and hesitant demeanor clearly indicated that he was prompted to address the issue during the hearing, Clinton reiterated the Obama administration’s interest in “a full, frank and just acknowledgements of the facts.”
“On Turkey-Armenia relations it is our position that the normalization process that Turkey and Armenia have undertaken carries important benefits for both sides and it should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame. Last year in his Armenia remembrance day statement, President Obama made clear that our interest remains a full frank and just acknowledgement of facts related to the historical events, but the best way to do that, with all respect, is for the Armenian and Turkish people themselves to address the facts of their past as part of their efforts to move forward. In that spirit we are working very hard to assist Armenia and Turkey in their efforts and we would like to continue to support that effort and not be diverted in any way at all,” said Clinton at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is set to vote on the bill next week.
Later on Thursday, Clinton also addressed the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, where Armenian Caucus Co-chairman Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) thanked Clinton for her past support of the resolution as a Senator and expressed hope that the State Department would support the resolution.
In response, Clinton reiterated the US support for diplomatic efforts between Turkey and Armenia.
Clinton did not reference a question by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the author of the the resolution, when he expressed hope that the State Department would not oppose the resolution and would support it, and instead responded to a second question by Schiff on another matter.
“Secretary Clinton’s remarks represent the third time in just the past few weeks that a senior Obama Administration official – in response to pointed questions about the Armenian Genocide Resolution – has chosen not to voice any opposition to the adoption of this genocide-prevention measure,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“The current Administration’s conduct, at least to date, stands in stark contrast to past Administrations – both Democratic and Republican – that used every opportunity to score points with Ankara by attacking the broad, bipartisan Congressional majority that has long existed in support of U.S. condemnation and commemoration of this crime against humanity,” he added.
At the House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, Clinton also discussed the ongoing US support for the Armenia-Turkey protocols and expressed the administration’s unwavering commitment to the process when responding to a question from New York Democrat Michael McMahon, who asked Clinton whether the State Department could appoint a point person to ensure the ratification of the documents by both parliaments.
“We are very committed to work with both Armenia and Turkey, and I have personally been involved in this. I was deeply involved in the negotiation in Zurich some months ago that led to the signing of the protocols. I’m on the phone probably more with the leadership in Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan than any other part of the world on a regular basis. We are very committed to doing everything we can, both in furthering the protocols for normalization between Armenia and Turkey and working for a durable diplomatic solution for the conflict over in Nagorno-Karabakh. That is not a precondition for the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia but it is essential for the long-term regional stability in the Caucasus. So, we have a whole team committed to that and we are working as hard as we can,” explained Clinton.
On a related issue, California Democrat Brad Sherman asked Clinton about funding for Armenia, with the expectation that the secretary would respond in writing to his inquiry.
“I’m glad you’re providing more aid to Armenia, but I think Congress should enhance that. Thank you for having parity on military financing, but you do not have parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan and as to international military training and there should be a specific aid request for Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Sherman.