This was originally published in November 17, 2007 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan
Former administration officials face credibility questions as they launch anti-genocide effort
Former Secretaries of State and Defense Madeleine Albright and William Cohen this week announced the formation of the “Genocide prevention task force,” which they will co-chair. But while launching the effort at a press conference at the National Press Club on November 13, they repeatedly heard questions, including from the Armenian Reporter, about their credibility on the issue.
In addition to working against Armenian Genocide affirmation while in government, last September both Ms. Albright and Mr.Cohen co-signed letters opposing House Resolution 106, which affirms the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide. The former defense secretary’s lobby shop, the Cohen Group, maintains a “strategic alliance” with DLA Piper, one of the major lobbyists for the Turkish government.
Asked if their opposition to Armenian Genocide affirmation meant that the U.S. “shouldn’t be taking action on future genocides because of what it could mean to U.S. interests,” the former secretaries appeared to agree.
“There are no absolutes in this,” said Mr. Cohen. “There is an element of pragmatism... I think anyone serving in public office necessarily has to have a set of balancing factors to take into account.” In a follow-up comment one of the journalists noted: “It sounds as if both of you are saying that ‘if our friends do it, it’s not genocide, if our enemies do it, it is genocide.’”
“Secretaries Albright and Cohen can’t have it both ways,” argued the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) executive director Aram Hamparian. “Either they stand unconditionally against all genocides all the time, or, by choosing to only raise their voices when it’s convenient, they surrender their moral standing on this, the core human rights and humanitarian issue of our time.”
The Albright-Cohen “task force,” established jointly by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the U.S. Institute of Peace, “will generate practical recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s capacity to respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities” in a report scheduled for release in December 2008.
Connect at http://www.ushmm.org/conscience/taskforce/press/?content=2007-11-13
Think tank warns of increased risk of war in Karabakh by 2012
The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank this week renewed its call on Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to make progress toward a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, although admitting that “the oil boom and extensive military development in Azerbaijan and steady economic growth in Armenia suggest that neither will feel compelled to compromise.”
In its “Nagorno Karabakh: Risking War” report issued on November 14, ICG said that the international community should do more to prevent a potential military escalation. Its analysts concluded that while an “all-out war” was unlikely in the near future, the risk of war “may reach a new level around 2012, however, when Azerbaijan’s oil revenues are expected to begin to decline.”
“At that point, Baku might be tempted to conclude that the balance of power was at its most favorable and that an appeal to extreme nationalism could counteract popular disenchantment with the regime. Before this happens, the international community needs to lose its complacency and lobby with all available pressure for peace.”
The peace formula currently on the table involves withdrawal of Armenian forces from around Karabakh, with “special modalities for Lachin and Kelbajar,” and parties agreeing that Karabakh’s status should be finalized through a new referendum. ICG suggested that parties should endorse basic principles of settlement, while also noting their disagreements, as soon as possible.
ICG is co-chaired by retired former senior British and U.S. officials Chris Patten and Thomas Pickering and led by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans. Its previous report on “Nagorno Karabakh: Plan for Peace” issued in October 2005 also warned that increased defense spending and war rhetoric were “ominous signs that time for a peace agreement is running out.”
Connect at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5157&l=1
See also the Armenian Reporter’s editorial on page A10.
Members of U.S. Israeli lobby visit Azerbaijan
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) National Board member Ron Barness led the organization’s delegation on a visit to Azerbaijan, which included a meeting with President Ilham Aliyev on November 9, the latter’s press office reported the same day.
In the meeting Mr. Barness reportedly “stressed existence of tolerance and attention to the representatives of different confessions, including representatives of the Jewish community, in Azerbaijan.”
Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan Artur Lenk told the Trend news agency on October 25 that the group intended to visit to Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey, to promote these countries’ relations with the U.S. and Israel, and that “after the visit to the region the issue will be raised at the U.S. Congress.”
There have been no public reports about the AIPAC group’s trip to Turkey.
Armenia declines to join another Russian demarche at OSCE
Russia along with Belarus, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan suggested more restrictive guidelines for registration of nongovernmental organizations at the Vienna-based Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Washington-based Freedom House reported on November 6.
The initiative is unlikely to be endorsed by the OSCE, which operates on a consensus basis, but Moscow has used such proposals to gain leverage for concessions on other issues of interest.
Armenia, which joined an earlier proposal by Russia to curtail OSCE election monitoring (see Tatul Hakobyan’s report and analysis in the November 10 Armenian Reporter), declined to endorse the latest effort.
According to a source familiar with OSCE proceedings, the Armenian government resisted Russian lobbying because it has generally good relations with Armenian NGOs. After Armenia pulled out from the initiative, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic followed suit.
Nareg Seferian contributed to this week’s column.