NEW YORK—Comments made by the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who lamented that denial of the Armenian Genocide contributed to continued injustices around the world, has renewed the debate over the Obama Administration’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide—a campaign promise that he did not keep as president.
Speaking at an event honoring Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Power hailed the human rights activist and said that “Genocide against the Armenians” was one the reasons that injustices continue to this day.
In covering Power’s remarks, the Associated Press asked: “Has the Obama administration quietly recognized the World War I-era killing of Armenians as genocide?”
The Associated Press also cited Obama’s campaign pledge to recognize the Genocide, and his subsequent failure to do so, which the news agency said “has angered advocates and lawmakers who have accused the president of outsourcing America’s moral voice to Turkey.”
The AP also said that Power’s statement was surprising given her position as the United States’ second highest ranked diplomat adding that the statement “sounded like her implicit criticism of Obama.”
Kurtis Cooper, Power’s spokesman, said the genocide reference came in the context of honoring Wiesel’s life and were meant to “convince others to stand up, rather than stand by, in the face of systemic injustice, mass atrocities and genocide like the one he was forced to endure,” reported the Associated Press adding the Cooper said they don’t reflect a change in administration policy.
A similar sentiment was expressed by State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who asserted that there has been no change in U.S. policy.
“The president and other senior administration officials have repeatedly mourned and acknowledged as historical fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and stated that a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests,” Toner said, according to the AP.
Before becoming an adviser and later the Unites States’ Ambassador to the UN, Power was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote extensively about America’s responses to genocide, criticizing the U.S.’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.
According to officials, Power has lobbied had behind the scenes for Obama to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Power released a video urging Armenian-Americans to vote for Obama, who, she insisted would follow through on his campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide.