Saturday, July 7, 2007

In Brief on Turkey's denial, U.S. foreign aid, terrorism and globalization

First published in the Armenian Reporter, May 5, 2007

From Washington, In Brief
By Emil Sanamyan

U.S. Commission: Turkey’s refusal to recognize Genocide strains relations with West

Turkey’s continued refusal to address the Armenian Genocide remains a source of tension between U.S. and other Western democracies and Turkey, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its annual recommendations released on May 2.

USCIRF is a bi-partisan federal body created by Congress through the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 “to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, […] and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.”

In the Turkey portion of its 2007 report, USCIRF details formal restrictions and other violations of freedom of religion for both majority Muslims and minority Christian communities. It notes, however, that “the consequences of some of Turkey’s state policies toward religion have been particularly detrimental for religious minorities,” such as Armenians.

“Built into the founding of Turkish identity was the implicit understanding that citizens other than ethnic Turks residing in Turkey are potentially suspect, since they allegedly harbor a secret desire to secede from and hence, dismember the country,” says the report.

“This fear of dismemberment, which has fueled a strain of virulent nationalism in Turkey, continues to hold sway in some sectors of society, resulting in state policies that actively undermine ethnic and minority religious communities, and, in some cases, threaten their very existence. The Commission learned in meetings that the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox communities are focal points for this perception and its resultant policies.”

The report points to prosecution and subsequent murder Hrant Dink over ““insulting” the Turkish state because of his use of the term “Armenian genocide” in his public remarks and written publications” as “just one example” of such policies.

The report says that even though “during the Commission’s visit, the issue of the Armenian genocide was not raised by any interlocutors, the continued refusal of the Turkish government to recognize the event continues to be a source of controversy in Turkey’s relations with other western countries, including the United States.” Visit to read the full report.

Top U.S. foreign aid official resigns over prostitution link

The official in charge of all of U.S. foreign assistance programs resigned on April 27, after admitting to using services of a company currently charged with running a high-end prostitution ring, which is illegal in Washington, local TV stations reported.

Ambassador Randall Tobias (featured on this page on March 17) was the U.S. Director for Foreign Assistance, a rank equivalent to Deputy Secretary of State. Mr. Tobias resigned even though according to local NBC 4 he said that “no sex was involved and he only used [the] massage services.”

Asked during April 30 briefing if the State Department had problems with employees getting massages, spokesman Sean McCormack said that he would not comment on “matter that is of current litigation.” He said that Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will handle funding decisions before a new foreign aid director is appointed.

State Department chronicles world-wide rise in terrorism incidents, related fatalities

There was a more than 28 percent increase in incidents of terrorism in 2006, with about half of them occurring in Iraq, according to the State Department’s latest “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” a congressionally mandated report released on April 30. The increase in incidents also led to more than a 40 percent rise in terrorism-related fatalities from 2005 to 2006.

In a section that briefly discusses individual countries the report noted that “with substantial U.S. assistance, Armenia continued to strengthen its capacity to counter the country's few perceived terrorist threats.” (Overall, Armenia continues to remain largely off limits to jihadist organizations, but there have been cases of Azerbaijani-sponsored domestic terrorism in the past.) The report also mentions Armenia’s continued support for U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unlike the Department’s other publications, such as those on human rights and narcotics, Azeris’ Karabakh conflict-related allegations did not make it into the “Patterns…” The only mention of the conflict comes in a sub-section dealing with U.S. government’s “Outreach through Broadcast Media.” It says that in 2006 U.S.’ Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty “provided comprehensive coverage of intensified negotiations over a settlement to the longstanding dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh…”

Poll: Armenians, others like globalization and trade, worried about jobs

Most Armenians believe that globalization and increased international trade are good for their country and for them personally, according to a joint study of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and, released on April 26. The survey included 17 other countries. The Armenia polling was conducted by the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) in December 2006.

Like in most other countries, the opinion in Armenia was divided as to whether international trade was good (37 percent) or bad (36 percent) for the environment. In the case of U.S., for example, views were similarly divided (49 percent – bad, 45 – good). Armenians were also in favor of incorporating environmental controls (82 percent) and labor standards (79 percent) in trade agreements.

Of all countries polled, Armenians were particularly anxious over trade’s impact on jobs, with 84 percent saying that “protecting the jobs” should be a “very important” foreign policy goal for Armenia (83 percent said so in Australia and 76 - in the United States.) 35 percent of Armenia respondents thought their government should oppose potential adverse rulings by the World Trade Organization (WTO), while 38 were undecided or said “it depends” and 26 percent would comply. (South Korea was the only other public where this was the most common view).

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