Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Briefly: U.S.-Armenia relations, progress in Karabakh, Jewish-Americans and Armenian Genocide and new Turkish president

First published in the September 1, 2007 Armenian Reporter

From Washington, in brief
by Emil Sanamyan

Five ambassadors to discuss U.S.-Armenia relations

The Library of Congress on September 28 will host a unique event on the first fifteen years of official relations between the U.S. and Armenia. “United States – Armenian Relations, 1991–2006: A Conversation with our First Five Ambassadors,”
is part of the Library’s Vardanants Day lecture series, and will for the first time bring together five former U.S. envoys to Armenia: Harry Gilmore (1993–95), Peter Tomsen (1995–98), Michael Lemmon (1998–2001), John Ordway (2001–4) and John Evans (2004–6). The lecture will take place from 9 a.m. to noon in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the Madison building of the library.

To learn more about the event, the lecture series, and the library’s extensive Armenian collection, read an interview with its Armenian specialist and event organizer Dr. Levon Avdoyan in the forthcoming September 8 issue of the Armenian Reporter.

Karabakh’s progress featured in the Washington Post

Last weekend the flagship newspaper of the nation’s capital featured a rare report about the progress made in Nagorno-Karabakh with the help of Armenia’s Diaspora.

The article titled “War-torn region gets a lift from Armenian exiles” was written by Reuters Armenia correspondent Hasmik Mkrtchyan and published by the Washington Post and other U.S. dailies on August 26. The story notes the “unlikely boom” that Nagorno-Karabakh is enjoying “thanks to the patriotism of Armenia’s foreign

Among those mentioned in the story are Jack Abolakian from Australia, Vartkes Anivian from the U.S. and Armand Tahmazian of Iran, all of whom have successfully invested in Karabakh. The Armenia Fund’s annual fundraising for infrastructure projects in Karabakh was also mentioned.

In a letter to the Washington Post, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Representative to the U.S. Vardan Barseghian welcomed the coverage and called for greater U.S. engagement
with Karabakh.

Long-delayed European monitoring of Caucasus monuments canceled

A group from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has canceled a long-delayed trip to the Caucasus intended to assess the state of historical monuments there, the Armenpress news agency reported on August 28.

Edward O’Hara, a member of Britain’s House of Commons, who was expected to lead the effort this month, cited “last-minute problems regarding entry into Nagorno- Karabakh and the lack of detailed program for all but the Georgian part of the proposed visit.” Mr. O’Hara had been preparing for the trip for well over a year.

In recent weeks, Azerbaijani officials have insisted that Mr. O’Hara and others enter Karabakh from Azerbaijan via the heavily mined Line of Contact instead of the usual route through Armenia.

On August 29 the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Vladimir Karapetian said that both “Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh had given the O’Hara delegation their agreement regarding the mission” and blamed the cancellation on Azerbaijan.

Mr. Karapetian noted that Armenia had initiated the idea of visits to the region by PACE, as well as the European Parliament and UNESCO, following the destruction of the
medieval Armenian monuments at Old Julfa (Jugha) in Azerbaijancontrolled Nakhichevan.

Azerbaijan has since declined a visit by a group from the European Parliament, which condemned the Old Julfa vandalism in a special resolution.

Turkey demands American Jews “back down” on Armenian Genocide

Following the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s change of position on the Armenian Genocide on August 21 (see the August 25 Armenian Reporter), which came about as a result of unprecedented Jewish-American and Armenian-American pressure, senior Turkish officials have threatened repercussions for relations with Israel, Jewish and
Turkish media reported.

Israel itself does not use the term genocide, although its embassy said in a statement published in part by the Turkish Daily News last week that Israel “has never denied these horrible events . . . the high number of victims and terrible suffering which the Armenian people endured.”

Still, Turkey’s ambassador to Israel Namik Tan told the Jerusalem Post on August 27, that “Israel should not let the [U.S.] Jewish community change its position [and use the term genocide]. This is our expectation and this is highly important, highly important.”

The comments came after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres, and the latter called Abraham Foxman of the
ADL regarding the issue.

Following those conversations, Mr. Foxman has been playing a balancing game between Jewish-American calls for genocide affirmation and the Turkish government’s denial.

Over the weekend, Mr. Foxman sent a letter to Prime Minister Erdogan to “express deep regret for any pain we have caused to you and the Turkish people,” TDN reported
on August 29.

But in an article published by the Jewish Advocate on August 27, Mr. Foxman reiterated ADL’s new position that it “will not hesitate to apply the term genocide in the future.” On the same day the ADL head reinstated the organization’s New England director Andrew Tarsy whom Mr. Foxman had fired last week for publicly questioning ADL’s previous avoidance of the term genocide.

At the same time Mr. Foxman remains opposed to the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide, a position questioned by senior ADL members and one that the organization is expected to discuss at its November 1 national meeting.

The House Resolution 106 currently has the backing of 226 of 435 House members.
Mr. Foxman has cited concern for several thousand Jews still living in Turkey as one of the main reasons for his position on the resolution.

While Turkey’s ambassador in the U.S. Nabi Sensoy told the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) that he was “disturbed” by the claim and said that the “Turkish Jewish community is . . . an integral part of the Turkish community,” he did not explicitly rule out a backlash.

Israel’s consul in Istanbul Mordehai Amihai expressed hope that “the Turkish population can make the distinction between the State of Israel, the organization (ADL), and the Jewish population of Turkey,” reported last week. But Turkey’s envoy to Israel, Namik Tan argued in the Jerusalem Post interview that the “[Turkish people] cannot make that differentiation.”

Abdullah Gul elected President of Turkey

The Turkish parliament elected Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul the country’s president on August 28.

The election came following the July 22 electoral success of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and in spite of concerns expressed by the country’s military and secular nationalist establishment.

Mr. Gul became the first conservative Muslim to be elected to the position. AKP first nominated Mr. Gul last May, but at the time his candidacy was blocked by the military and secular opposition, who fear losing further ground to AKP and claim the party wants to undermine the country’s secular regime.

A day before Mr. Gul’s election the Turkish military chief General Yasar Buyukanit issued a statement alleging, in an apparent reference to AKP, that “centers of evil
systematically try to corrode the secular nature” of Turkey, Turkish news agencies reported. The general pledged that “the military will . . . keep its determination and guard” what it sees as Turkey’s core interests.

AKP has promised to adopt a new constitution guaranteeing more personal freedoms and bring the military under greater civilian scrutiny.

The military’s actions are constrained by AKP’s popularity, which remains high both domestically, where after presiding over years of economic success it was rewarded at the July polls, and abroad, where it is seen as trying to reform Turkey and bring it closer to Europe.

Among those congratulating Mr. Gul on his election were Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. The latter expressed hope that Mr. Gul would make a “contribution to bringing peace and prosperity to the region,” Armenpress news agency reported.

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