Friday, August 1, 2008

Briefly: Army Day in DC; Bush gives weight to Edmonds vs. Turkey in nuclear deal, proposes FY09 budget, Congress mostly mum on anti-Armenian vandalism

This was first published in February 9, 2008 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Inset: Armenian Army Day in Washington

More than a hundred guests, mostly U.S. civilian and military officials and foreign
defense attachés attended the annual Armenian Armed Forces Day at the
Armenian Embassy in Washington on Jan. 31. Pictured: World War II, Korea,
and Vietnam veteran and U.S. Army Col. (ret.) George Juskalian (seated) with
Armenia’s Defense Attaché Col. Armen Sargsyan (standing on right) and Armenian
Defense Ministry public affairs officer Capt. Hayk Markosyan.

President Bush OK’s nuclear deal with Turkey, cites earlier proliferation concerns

President George W. Bush approved last month the July 2000 “Agreement for Cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Turkey Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy,” and has transmitted it to Congress for ratification.

According to January 23 press release from the White House, Mr. Bush argued that the agreement would serve as “a strong incentive” for U.S.–Turkish relations and “provide the necessary legal framework for U.S. industry to make nuclear exports to Turkey’s planned civil nuclear sector.” The agreement would not allow transfers of “sensitive” nuclear technology or data.

The presidential message indirectly gives further weight to allegations made by former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) translator Sibel Edmonds, most recently
published in The Times of London (see this page in the February 2 Armenian Reporter).

The message says that then-president Bill Clinton first authorized the agreement shortly before its signing in July 2000, but that “immediately after signature, U.S. agencies received information. . . implicating Turkish private entities in certain activities directly relating to nuclear proliferation” and the agreement therefore was not submitted to Congress.

The message further noted that the Bush administration has now evaluated the “actions taken by the Turkish government to address the proliferation activities of certain Turkish entities (once officials of the U.S. Government brought them to the Turkish government’s attention)” and found that “the pertinent issues have been sufficiently resolved and that there is a sufficient basis . . . to proceed with congressional review of the Agreement.”

Turkey suspended its nuclear energy program just days after the July 2000 determination, but has recently renewed its interest.

Last month, Energy Minister Hilmi Guler announced plans to conclude by next June an international tender to build a nuclear power plant. According to Turkish media, companies from Canada, France, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States are expected to bid.

President Bush’s decision came just weeks after his talks with visiting Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who was accompanied by Mr. Guler.

Administration again requests cut in aid to Armenia

President Bush sent his more than $3 trillion budget request to Congress this week. In it, he requested a further aid cut to Armenia, no funds for Nagorno-Karabakh, and more military assistance to Azerbaijan.

The administration’s draft for the Fiscal Year 2009 budget, which is due to be scrutinized by congressional appropriators later this year, requested $24 million in economic and $3.3 million in military aid to Armenia, as well as $3.9 million in military aid to Azerbaijan. (Armenia is also a recipient of a separate $235 million Millennium Challenge Assistance program.)

The administration also proposed $52 million to Georgia and nearly $20 million to Azerbaijan, levels virtually unchanged from what Congress approved last year. In Fiscal Year 2008 Congress approved $58.5 million in economic assistance to Armenia and $3 million in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan each.

The administration further revealed that in spite of congressional allocation that called for parity in military aid, particularly under International Military Education and Training, the United States in fact provided $952,000 to Azerbaijan and
only $286,000 to Armenia in FY2008.

Armenian-American organizations expressed opposition to the proposed cuts.

“Given Azerbaijan’s increased war rhetoric, I have strong concerns with giving any military aid to Azerbaijan, and we definitely should not give them more than we’re providing Armenia,” senior congressional appropriator Joe Knollenberg (R.-Mich.) was quoted as saying on February 4 by the Armenian Assembly of America. He is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

“I will work with my colleagues to ensure that Armenia has the resources needed to continue to strengthen its democracy as well as ensure its security,” Mr. Knollenberg added.

Congress to condemn construction at historic cemetery in Lithuania

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will next week consider a resolution that reaffirms “the U.S. commitment to preservation of religious and cultural sites and
condemning instances where sites are desecrated.” House Resolution 255 is co-sponsored by the committee’s ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.), Reps. Joe
Crowley (D.-N.Y.) and Michael Ferguson (R.-N.J.) (all three are Armenian caucus members) and is expected to be marked up on February 14.

The proposed resolution singles out continued construction within the boundaries of a historic Jewish cemetery (13th to early 19th century) in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and warns that unless construction is immediately stopped by the Lithuanian government, “it will jeopardize its important relationship with the United States and its standing in the international community.”

While individual members of Congress, particularly Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.) have spoken out about the destruction of historic Armenian
cemeteries in Azerbaijan, no congressional legislation followed.

And there has so far been little or no reaction to the ongoing construction over Baku’s Armenian cemetery, where many Russians, Jews, and Azerbaijanis are also buried.

ANCA to co-sponsor congressional advocacy campaign next month

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) announced on February 7 that together with the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-Net) it will co-sponsor Capitol
Hill advocacy days between from March 12 to 14.

The two organizations partnered for a similar initiative last year “to encourage U.S. action to stop the genocide in Darfur, the adoption of the Armenian Genocide resolution (S.Res.106 / H.Res.106), and the strengthening of U.S. resolve to act against all instances of genocide.”


Group campaigns for environment in Armenia

Concerns over threats to the environment and public health were the focus of a public lecture organized by the Armenian Environmental Network (AEN) and held at
the World Bank on February 6.

Johns Hopkins University professor George Jakab and Dr. Charles Dunlap of the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation discussed the results of their fieldwork in Armenia and criticized lack of quick government response to environmental and health risks to the public.

The speakers noted dangerously high levels of lead found in Yerevan fountains, in which children often swim, as well as three of the Lake Sevan beaches. The contamination is linked to the tourist infrastructure that has sprung up around the lake in recent years.

AEN Director Ursula Kazarian said that public health was not a hot enough topic to attract adequate funding. “The government does not want to put up up-front costs even though resolving these [public health] problems will save them money in the long run,” she said.

AEN was set up last year to promote environmental awareness throughout the diaspora.

—Alexa Millinger contributed to this week’s column

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