WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)–Seeking to avert tensions during President Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey, both sides are playing down potential fallout from a renewed attempt by U.S. lawmakers to reaffirm the US record on the Armenian Genocide, Reuters reported on Friday.
Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign policy advisor to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters on Thursday the issue which, according to him, caused U.S.-Turkish relations to plummet in 2007, would not "hijack" Obama’s visit early next month.
“Nothing can overshadow the success of this visit," Davutoglu told reporters after meeting Obama’s national security advisor Jim Jones at the White House.
But the President’s visit to Turkey also “represents a great opportunity to personally impress upon Turkey’s government and society the importance that he attaches to Turkey ending its denial of the Armenian Genocide and lifting its blockade of Armenia," Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian told Asbarez.
During his 2008 campaign for the White House, Obama referred to the killings of Armenia’s in World War One as genocide, which Turkey vehemently denies.
In a January 19, 2008 statement on the importance of relations between the U.S. and Armenia , Obama said, “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
"During Barack Obama’s years in the U.S. Senate and in the months leading up to his election last November as President, he clearly characterized the Armenian Genocide as a thoroughly-documented instance of genocide, forcefully called for U.S. recognition of this crime, and consistently pledged to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide if elected to the White House,” Hamparian said in response to a March 17 Los Angeles Times article titled “Obama Wavers on Pledge to Declare Armenian Genocide.
“We know the President to be a man of his word, respect his commitment to ending the cycle of genocide, and look forward to his finally bringing an end to U.S. complicity in Turkey’s shameful campaign of genocide denial," Hamparian was quoted by the LA Times as saying.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also been a strong advocate for US recognition of the Armenian Genocide, co-sponsoring legislation to recognize that fact when she was in the Senate.
According to Davutoglu, the reintroduction on Tuesday by lawmakers of a new resolution in the House of Representatives could complicate Obama’s visit. He said the issue was discussed in his meeting with Jones.
Asked whether Obama’s views might have changed, Davutoglu was noncommittal.
"I did not say yes or no," he said. "Of course, I cannot speak on behalf of General Jones, but we went through all these issues in a very friendly and cooperative manner."
Recognizing how sensitive the issue could become in U.S.-Turkish relations, the State Department has avoided comment on the resolution or what the Obama administration’s policy is on the Genocide.
"I don’t want to go any further on it until we have had a chance to take a closer look at it and discuss it within the government, and that’s where I’m going to leave it," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters on Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked if it was a good time to bring up the Armenian resolution, reiterated her view that genocide occurred.
Whether Obama travels to the region or not "does not deny the fact that there was an Armenian genocide, and there are those of us in Congress who will continue to make that point," the California lawmaker told Reuters.
Pelosi’s spokesman, Brendan Daly, said he did not know whether the sponsors of the latest resolution had enough support for it to pass in the House but "no one’s talking about a vote any time soon."
Similar resolutions have been introduced in Congress for years and Pelosi has been a long-time supporter of having Congress officially recognize the crime against humanity as a Genocide.
But as speaker, she did not bring the legislation to the floor for a vote in 2007 after pressure by the Bush administration, amid concerns over the sensitivities of NATO ally Turkey.