Congressional Letter Urging “Administration to separate the issues of normalization and genocide recognition” Comes as Turkish Leaders Reiterate Preconditions on Dialogue
WASHINGTON–Over 80 House House Members on Thursday expressed concern about Turkey’s backtracking on a so-called “roadmap” to advance Armenia-Turkey dialogue, urging President Obama to separate Armenian Genocide recognition from normalization of ties between the two countries, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)
“We commend the leadership of Representatives Pallone, Kirk, Schiff, Radanovich and their 78 colleagues in calling attention to Turkey’s efforts to inject the resolution of the Karabakh conflict as a precondition to lifting the its illegal blockade of Armenia,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide should not be held hostage to a sham ‘roadmap’ designed to prolong U.S. complicity in the denial of that crime against humanity.”
In a July 29th letter to President Obama, initiated by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) as well as Armenian Genocide resolution lead sponsors Adam Schiff (D-CA) and George Radanovich (R-CA), Members of Congress questioned Turkey’s commitment to talks normalizing relations with Armenia, as stated in a “roadmap” agreement signed just two days prior to April 24th, the international day of commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has since added preconditions to continued discussions, which have led most observers of the process to conclude the effort to be stalled indefinitely.
“It would appear that Turkey, in an effort to block U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, agreed to a roadmap it did not intend to uphold,” notes the letter to the President. “Therefore, we urge your Administration to separate the issues of normalization and genocide recognition. We hope that renewed efforts and focused resources from the Administration can be utilized to nurture the Armenia-Turkey normalization process without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe, and continue to remain strongly supportive of your stated campaign policy to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The letter comes just days following a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu once again citing that the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as a precondition to Armenia-Turkey normalization efforts. In recent weeks, Western diplomats have stated that dialogue between Armenia and Turkey is virtually frozen. An ANCA fact sheet outlining Turkey’s backtracking from the April 22nd “roadmap” agreement can be viewed here.
Over the past two weeks, Armenian Americans have been contacting their legislators to cosign the Congressional letter. ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern Nareg Aghjayan documented the grassroots community efforts to educate Congress about Turkey’s backtracking on the roadmap in a “Capital Perspectives” piece issued Thursday, posted on the ANCA Leo Sarkisian 2009 blog page:
Joining Reps. Pallone, Kirk, Schiff and Radanovich in cosigning the letter to President Obama were Representatives: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Joe Baca (D-CA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Bruce Braley, (D-IA), John Campbell, (R-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Steve Driehaus (D-OH), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), James Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sander Levin (D-MI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Daniel Lungren (R-CA). Stephen Lynch (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Candice Miller (R-MI), Walt Minnick (D-ID), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Richard Neal (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), John Olver (D-MA) Payne, Donald (D-NJ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Edward Royce (R-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL) Paul Ryan (R-WI), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD) James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Mark Souder (R-IN), Zack Space (D-OH), Jackie Speier (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Walz (D-MN) Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
The full text of the letter to President Obama follows:
July 30, 2009
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to you with our concerns about Turkish backpedaling on the agreed upon roadmap to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia.
On April 22, 2009, just two days before the 94th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, the Department of State released the following statement:
The United States welcomes the statement made by Armenia and Turkey on normalization of their bilateral relations. It has long been and remains the position of the United States that normalization should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe. We urge Armenia and Turkey to proceed according to the agreed framework and roadmap. We look forward to working with both governments in support of normalization, and thus promote peace, security and stability in the whole region.
Two days later, instead of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the Administration opted to focus on this new roadmap to Armenian-Turkish normalization. “I also strongly support the efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations,” you wrote. “Under Swiss auspices, the two governments have agreed on a framework and roadmap for normalization. I commend this progress, and urge them to fulfill its promise.”
While the Government of Armenia remains committed to this roadmap and has long offered to establish ties with Turkey without preconditions, Turkey’s public statements and actions since April 24th stand in sharp contrast to this agreement and undermine U.S. policy that normalization take place without preconditions.
On May 13, 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan publically conditioned normalization of relations with Yerevan on Azerbaijan’s approval of a future settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that fully meets Baku’s satisfaction. “I want to repeat once more that until the occupation ends, the border gates [with Armenia] will remain closed,” Erdogan told the Azeri Parliament.
On June 17, 2009, EU South Caucasus Envoy Peter Semneby said Turkey had taken “tactical steps backwards” in the normalization process with Armenia.
It would appear that Turkey, in an effort to block U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, agreed to a roadmap it did not intend to uphold. Therefore, we urge your Administration to separate the issues of normalization and genocide recognition. We hope that renewed efforts and focused resources from the Administration can be utilized to nurture the Armenia-Turkey normalization process without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe, and continue to remain strongly supportive of your stated campaign policy to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.