YEREVAN—The US Embassy in Armenia emailed a statement to reporters Friday afternoon clarifying a recent YouTube video showing Vice President Joe Biden telling an Armenian-American activist that Armenia’s president asked the Obama Administration to refrain from recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The video, posted on YouTube Tuesday evening, shows the Vice President making the stunning claim that Armenia’s president called him and asked the Obama Administration to refrain from recognizing the Armenian Genocide on the eve of the roadmap agreement and President Obama’s April 24 statement.
According to the US Embassy statement, Biden and President Serzh Sarkisian spoke twice in April 2009 and in neither call did Sarkisian “raise the issue of the content of President Obama’s statement for Armenian Remembrance Day or seek a delay in consideration of House Resolution 252.”
“Instead, the discussions between Vice President Biden and President Sarkisian that were recently referenced by the Vice president were about the need to take immediate steps to improve Armenian-Turkish relations,” the statement said. “The two leaders agreed that there should be no preconditions to normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey.”
“In these calls, the Vice President told President Sarkisian the United States believes that the normalization of relations with Turkey and the opening of borders would provide a path to a better future for Armenia and expressed the support of the United States for his leadership,” the Embassy said.
The statement added that Biden “expressed the Obama Administration’s support for a Swiss proposal for a joint Armenia-Turkish statement on progress made toward normalizing relations.
The Embassies clarifications came after several days of silence on the part of the US government and after Sarkisian’s spokesman swiftly denied the statement Wednesday and urged the White House to release conversation records.
Commenting on the YouTube video, Sarkisian’s press secretary Armen Arzumanyan said the president did not call Biden and did not make the statement attributed to him. Arzumanyan invited the White House to release the official records of the conversation.
“The president of the Republic of Armenia has never called United States Vice President Joe Biden. It was at the latter’s initiative that two telephone conversations took place in 2009 and during those conversations the president of the Republic of Armenia did not, directly or indirectly, make the expression that is ascribed to him on the video,” said Arzumanyan.
“On the contrary, in all his public speeches and official meetings, President Serzh Sarkisian has emphasized the importance of the international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, and urged not to justify the delay of recognition with the ongoing negotiations with Turkey,” Arzumanyan said.
“Being confident that the White House has at its disposal all of the U.S. vice-president’s official records and phone conversations, the RA presidential administration officially gives its agreement to publicize the noted phone conversation records,” added Arzymanyan.
The full text of the exchange between Biden and the activist follows.
Question: “I’m Armenian, and I want to thank you for the work you did in the Senate. I have a question. I am very involved in the Armenian American community and as you know we’ve been…”
Vice-President Biden: “Oh, I know.”
Question: “… we’ve been very, very burned. I want to know what is the message that we should be giving to our community?”
Biden: “What you should be giving to your community is that we are not backing off. The Turks have to come to the realization of what the reality is. And what we got to do is, you know, this, the compromise that was going on and being worked at for a while… Tell them that it was the Armenian President that called me and said ‘Look, do not force this issue now, while we are in negotiations.’ We passed. That’s past right now. So anyway, reality has a way of intruding.”