Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Briefly: Sarkozy visits Washington, Azerbaijan in effort to stop Armenian cultural exhibit, Turkish lobby conference in D.C.

This was originally published in November 10, 2007 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan

U.S., France declare revival in relations
French President Nicolas Sarkozy received a warm welcome in Washington this week, heralding a revival in U.S.-French relations that have been cool for over a decade. In meetings with President George Bush and an address to Congress, Mr. Sarkozy shared his amity for the United States.

“Every time, when an American soldier falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American Army did for France [in World War II]; I think of them, and I am sad, as one
is saddened to lose a member of one’s family,” Mr. Sarkozy related in his speech to Congress, eliciting a rapturous applause.

Mr. Sarkozy expressed his “love” for the American people, promised to help U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, avoided mentioning Iraq – on which the two countries have disagreed – and reiterated concern over Iran’s nuclear program. “It is unacceptable that Iran should have at any point a nuclear weapon,” said Mr. Sarkozy, adding that the issue should be tackled through a combination of sanctions and dialogue.

Neither he nor Mr. Bush made a mention of possible military action against Iran. But Mr. Bush said in reference to the French president, “I have a partner in peace, somebody who has a clear vision, basic values, who is willing to take tough positions to achieve peace.”

Azerbaijan fails to disrupt Armenian cultural heritage exhibit
Azerbaijan’s embassy in the U.S. tried to thwart an exhibit on the destruction of the Armenian cultural monuments in Azerbaijan that opened this week at Harvard University (see story on page B1 of this issue). The destruction was condemned by the European Parliament and decried by U.S. officials last year.

In a November 1 letter, distributed at a pre-exhibit panel discussion and made available to the Reporter , the Azerbaijani embassy said: “Azerbaijan denounces continuing hysterical ungrounded allegations by part of the Armenian Diaspora of stone-crosses’ destruction in a Julfa (Nakhchivan) cemetery” (sic).

It further claimed that the cemetery razed at the end of 2005 was not Armenian, and is “under state protection.” The letter went on to allege the destruction of “Azerbaijan’s unique cultural heritage amounting almost $7 billion” in Armenia and Karabakh. The embassy did not explain how it arrived at that estimate.

The Armenian and Karabakh governments have in recent years spent public funds to catalogue and preserve Muslim monuments now in Armenian territory, even as the destruction of Armenian monuments has continued in Azerbaijan.

Despite the Azerbaijani embassy’s efforts, the exhibit will be on display at Harvard’s Davis Center through November 19.

Turkish lobby to hold conference in Washington
The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) and the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) will host a joint conference titled “Turkish Americans Gaining Power through Grassroots” on November 15–16, according to a notice the groups sent out last week. The groups’ activists are invited to lobby congressional offices, attend advocacy skills workshops and a fund-raising reception at the home of Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy.

A joint ATAA-TCA event earlier this year was funded in part by the Livingston Group, which is in turn being paid by the Turkish government to lobby primarily against Armenian Genocide affirmation. Former House Speaker Bob Livingston will be one of the conference participants.

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