California Congressman voices serious concerns over Turkish-Armenian "Reconciliation" Commission–emphasizes support for Karabakh self-determination
YEREVAN–Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.-27) held a press conference at the Yerevan Simon Vratzian Headquarters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia–where he discussed with journalists his three-day visit as part of an official delegation of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region.
Rep. Schiff–who participated in a number of high-level meetings with officials in Armenia and Karabakh–fielded a variety of questions on the issues he had discussed in his visits with officials. The US Representative thanked the Armenian government and the Armenian people for their hospitality and warmth during his visit–and explained to the media representatives that he had added to his knowledge on the very crucial issues facing Armenia and Karabakh.
Congressman Schiff–in response to questions on the Turkish-Armenian "Reconciliation" Commission–expressed his serious concerns over the recently formed private group comprised of Turkish and Armenian individuals.
Rep. Schiff said–"I really have three concerns about it. First–I think the membership of the commission is not representative of the broader Armenian community and if it is not representative of the community–then whatever its ultimate work product–it will not have any credibility in the community." At the same time–Schiff added–from his perspective the agenda of the commission was too narrow in scope–because "by unilaterally excluding a discussion of the Genocide–the work of any so-called reconciliation commission is doomed to failure. I don’t see how you can have reconciliation–when the single greatest impediment to reconciliation is an area of non-discussion."
Finally–Rep. Schiff added that the manner in which the "commission" was created "may have had the unintended or perhaps the intended result of derailing some of the efforts in the United States and elsewhere to recognize the Genocide. Because those who do not want to take up this issue in Congress–may use this commission as a justification for inaction. They make the argument that why is it important for the Congress of the United States to recognize the Armenian Genocide–when this commission made up of Armenia’s and Turks is willing to put this issue aside."
Adding to his commen’s–Rep. Schiff told the journalists that he discussed the "commission" with both President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian earlier in the week and that "common concerns" were expressed in varying degrees. "There is a considerable controversy among diasporans and here in Armenia as well–and?while I think that dialogue should be encouraged–I think that when you have a commission that is not representative and it’s given a quasi public mission that it may very well be counterproductive and it ought to be completely reexamined," explained Rep. Schiff.
In reference to his visit to Nagorno-Karabakh Thursday and in response to a question on the Council of Europe’s recent announcement discouraging the upcoming Karabakh elections–Rep. Schiff said that he believed that Karabakh is an independent state and currently involved in discussions on its status. "Ultimately–Nagorno-Karabakh has realized it s self-determination and it should be supported in this–and I don’t think that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh need to stand and wait for anyone else in the world to recognize their legitimacy–and I would not suggest that any other country or outside party try to discourage Nagorno-Karabakh from continuing to exercise its independent self-determination," said Rep. Schiff. He went on to say that "?the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are not intent on sitting and waiting on the rest of the world–and nor do I think they should."
In response to a question directed at Rep. issue–Rep. Schiff explained that while it was too early to tell how this administration would do in comparison to others preceding it–he was more concerned with the House of Representatives leadership–which has in the past blocked votes on the Armenian Genocide resolution.
On the same question–Sardar explained that the Armenian National Committee of America would continue its work in the US on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide–and while–in the face of the ANCA post card campaign to President Bush–the US president retreated from his campaign pledge of recognizing the Genocide–the ANCA will continue to push this issue on all levels of Yerevan Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex–Dzidzernagabert–paying tribute to the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide–reported the ANCA – WR.
Rep. Schiff–who has been a strong advocate of the recognition and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide during his years in the California State Senate and now in the US House of Representatives–led the delegation in an emotional visit to the eternal flame at the Armenian Genocide monument–where the visitors stood for several minutes in silence honoring the memory of the martyrs of the Armenian nation. Rep. Schiff laid a flower arrangement at the foot of the monument–while visitors paid their tribute by leaving behind white carnations.
Prior to the memorial ceremony–the US Representative visited the Armenian Genocide Museum on the Complex grounds–where he received a tour of the artifacts at the memorial museum–as well as a brief history of the Armenian Genocide. The Congressman also presented the director of the Dzidzernagabert museum with a copy of the Armenian Film Foundation’s "Voices from the Lake," and a copy of the ANCA-WR "The Armenian Genocide 1915-1923–A Handbook for Students and Teachers." Rep. Schiff–during his tenure in the California State Senate helped procure the necessary public funding for the completion of "Voices from the Lake," which is the first installment in the landmark Genocide trilogy "The Witnesses."
At the end of the tour–which concluded with the court of justice exhibit at the museum–Rep. Schiff spoke to Horizon Television correspondent Rita Sharoyan–expressing his deep emotions at the site of the eternal flame and the museum exhibits–and his revitalized fervor to press for the international recognition and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
ANCA-WR Executive Director Alex Sardar–who accompanied Schiff as part of the delegation remarked at the conclusion of the tour–"This visit to the Dzidzernagabert complex has affected our delegation in a profound manner–reminding us that with the help of friends like Congressman Schiff–and others–we must continue to advocate for the recognition of the crime against humanity."
In addition to Rep. Schiff and Sardar–the ANCA-WR delegation includes Glendale City Councilman Rafi Manoukian; Legislative Assistant to Rep. Schiff–Mannik Khatchatrian; ANCA-WR Board Member Raffi Kradjian and his wife Aline Kradjian; Rep. Schiff’s interpreter Angela Achigozian.
The delegation–led by Rep. Schiff will conclude its official visit on Saturday.