Emil Sanamyan's articles on Armenian-Americans, Armenia and its neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Briefly: U.S. establishment vs. Armenian Genocide resolution, Turkey vs. U.S. over Kurdistan, Azeris lobby California, Ratings and Georgia politics

First published in September 29, 2007 Armenian Reporter.


From Washington, in Brief
by Emil Sanamyan

America’s foreign policy establishment opposes Armenian Genocide resolution

A September 25 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, co-signed by the six living former secretaries of state, urged the speaker “to prevent the [Armenian Genocide] resolution from reaching the house floor,” the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reported.

Mrs. Pelosi has pledged to bring the measure to the floor, but has yet to take any legislative action on it. House Resolution 106 was introduced in January and is currently supported by 227 of 435 Members of Congress.

The letter echoed the long-repeated Clinton and Bush Administrations’ position that a resolution, if passed, would trigger retaliation by Turkey against U.S. and Armenian interests.

In a press release, ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian called the ex-secretaries “the very architects of our government’s failed policy of appeasing Turkey.”

“Sadly, successive U.S. administrations have found themselves lacking the moral courage to end the cycle of genocide – from Cambodia, to Rwanda and, today in Darfur – precisely because of their legacy of caving in to, rather than confronting genocidal regimes,” said Mr. Hamparian.

In another similarity to the official U.S. position, the ex-secretaries stressed that they “do not minimize or deny the enormous significance of the horrible tragedy suffered by ethnic Armenian from 1915 to 1923,” and cited unnamed “hopeful signs [of Armenians and Turks] engaging each other.”

In a statement, Armenia’s foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, expressed “dismay” about the letter. He branded as “insincere” the claim that the resolution would “damage efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey.”

“I regret to say that there is no process in place to promote normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey,” Mr. Oskanian said. “Expressing concern about damaging a process that doesn’t exist is disingenuous.”

Turkey declines to cut ties with Iran, warns U.S. on Kurdistan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed U.S. calls on Turkey to suspend plans to invest in Iran’s energy sector and said Turkey would continue to import Iranian gas, Turkish media reported.

Speaking after a meeting with visiting U.S. undersecretary of State Nick Burns last week, Mr. Erdogan said that “no country can make such a demand of us. . . . Turkey generates 52 percent of its electricity from natural gas and it is impossible for us to cut our ties with our suppliers,” the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation reported on September 24 and 25, citing Turkish press.

Speaking in Washington last week Suat Kiniklioglu, a Turkish parliament member from Erdogan’s party, predicted that U.S.–Turkish disagreements would persist. He said that U.S. needs a “mental shift” in its perception of Turkey and said that his country’s leaders now listen to public opinion (which is overwhelmingly anti-American).

Turkey and Iran are expected to finalize the investment agreement next month, just as the U.S. has pushed for stronger international sanctions against Iran unless it stopped enrichment of nuclear fuel, which can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

Mr. Burns also reiterated the U.S. position that Turkey should deal with anti-Turkey Kurdish forces in Iraq through a “dialogue” with Iraqi leaders, including those in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Turkish Armed Forces’ second-in-command Gen. Ilker Basbug said this week, “The U.S. has to understand and to demonstrate that it is now time for action not words” and that it “should be aware that no solution in Iraq can be a lasting one unless it has Turkey’s support.”

Gen. Basbug went on to say that “the Kurds in northern Iraq have been strengthened politically, legally, militarily, and psychologically as never before… It should be noted that this might inspire some of our own [Kurdish] citizens.”

Turkey’s conflict with these citizens continued to take its toll this week. On September 26, regional Kurdish military commander Nazan Bayram (also known as Nuda
Karker) was reported killed in action with Turkish forces in the province of Hakkari. According to the Firat news agency, she was one of PKK’s most senior female fighters.

California state officials visit Baku to hear of “destructive” Armenian diaspora

Five state officials from California paid a visit to Azerbaijan between September 21 and 27 on a propaganda tour organized by the country’s foreign ministry, Azerbaijani news agencies reported.

The delegation, led by Californian State Senator Sheila Kuehl, included State Assembly members Julia Brownley, Betty Karnette, and Lori Saldaña, as well as assistant director of the California State Senate international relations office Shannon Shellenberg.

During a September 25 meeting with Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov they heard about the “destructive” activity of the Armenia diaspora in California, the APA news agency reported.

Ms. Kuehl, whose district includes northern and western parts of Los Angeles and adjacent areas, hoped the trip would spur “cooperation between Azerbaijani and Californian women,” the Trend news agency reported on September 26.

Azerbaijan’s diplomatic presence in Los Angeles, led by Consul General Elin Suleymanov, was only established in November 2005 (www.azconsulatela.org). Since then Mr. Suleymanov has worked creatively to, in the words of President Ilham Aliyev, “undermine the work of the Armenian lobby” in the reputed stronghold of the Armenian diaspora. Mr. Aliyev previously claimed publicly that the Armenian diaspora, not Armenia, is Azerbaijan’s main political rival and target.

World Bank, Transparency Int’l issue annual ratings

Armenia was ranked 39th out of 178 countries rated in the World Bank’s study on the “ease of doing business” (www.doingbusiness. org), released on September 26. Meantime, the “Corruption Perception Index” by the Berlin-based Transparency International (www.transparency.org) issued the same day found only a slight improvement, again placing Armenia in the bottom half of the world.

The World Bank study found improvements in Armenia when it came to obtaining credit and cross-border commerce. Among Armenia’s neighbors Georgia fared the best and was praised for most improvements, giving it 19th place in the rating (up from 37th). With the ranking topped by Singapore, New Zealand, and the U.S., Turkey was 57th, Azerbaijan 96th, Russia 106th, Ukraine 128th, and Iran 137th.

Perception of corruption, measured by Transparency International through opinion polls of businesspeople, gave Armenia 3.0 points (up from 2.9 points in 2005–6, but down from 3.1 in 2004), placing it 99th of 179 countries ranked. Turkey was 64th, Georgia 79th, Ukraine 118th, Iran 131st, Russia 143rd, and Azerbaijan 150th. Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand were ranked as least corrupt in the world.

Both ratings are part of qualification criteria for grants of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (www.mcc.gov), through which Armenia is set to receive $235 million over five years.

Georgian president faces major scandal

Hours after publicly detailing allegations of criminal misconduct against President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, his former ally Irakly Okruashvili was taken into custody on charges of money laundering and extortion, international and Georgian media reported.

Mr. Okruashvili was Georgia’s defense minister until last year, and previously served as police chief and prosecutor general. Since leaving government he has been seen as the president’s most serious challenger.

At a press conference announcing the launch of his own political party, Mr. Okruashvili alleged that Mr. Saakashvili ordered the murder of a prominent local businessperson and had his family members illegally take over private property and embezzle state funds.

The claims have been denied by Mr. Saakashvili’s allies as “nonsense.” The president himself made no comment as he took part in the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Civil.ge reported that late on September 27 Georgia’s opposition groups, including those led by Mr. Saakashvili’s former allies were planning protests to demand the president’s resignation.

Outside Tbilisi shooting was reported in the breakaway province of South Ossetia; in Abkhazia Georgian forces killed two and captured six service members.

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