Thursday, July 31, 2008

Democratic presidential hopefuls all issue strong statements in support of Armenian-American issues

This was originally published in January 26, 2008 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan

Reach out ahead of Super Tuesday

WASHINGTON – Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of the United States, last weekend, issued a comprehensive statement in support of Armenian-American concerns. Fellow Democratic hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina issued similar statements during the week.

This week in South Carolina and Florida, and on February 5 in 22 other states, voters will have an opportunity to help choose the candidates for president. Democrats looking to reach out to significant Armenian-American communities in several of the primary states have issued these timely statements to highlight their positions on issues of interest to Armenian-American voters.

Referring to “one and a half million Americans of Armenian heritage in the United States,” Mr. Obama pledged to support Armenia’s development, and to work toward “a lasting and durable settlement” in Karabakh “that is agreeable to all parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment to the principles of democracy and self determination.”

Although he has not officially signed on to the Armenian Genocide resolution in the Senate, he pledged to support its passage, adding, “as President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

In her statement, Ms. Clinton highlighted her past support of Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress and, like Mr. Obama, promised, “as President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” She also wrote that she would “work to expand and improve U.S.-Armenia relations” and support “a fair and democratic resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

Mr. Edwards wrote that he supports the Genocide resolution in Congress, noting, however, that it is not directed at “our friends in Turkey.” Referring, like Mr. Obama, to “our nation’s one and a half million Americans of Armenian heritage,” he wrote that as president he would “prioritize our special relationship with Armenia and the goal of a lasting peace to Nagorno Karabakh and the entire region.”

As a senator, Mr. Obama has repeatedly spoken out on the need to affirm the Armenian Genocide, including in letters to the president and secretary of state. He protested the firing of John Evans as ambassador to Armenia for using the word “genocide.” As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he voted, however, over Armenian-American objections, to affirm the president’s ultimately unsuccessful nominee to replace Mr. Evans.

Mr. Obama’s advisors include Harvard Professor Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide , who has repeatedly spoken out in favor of a congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide, most recently in a Time magazine article last October.

An opponent of the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama opposes a potential military confrontation with Armenia’s southern neighbor, Iran. He has called for a diplomatic solution there. Mr. Obama enjoys the support of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who has the largest Armenian-American constituency nationwide, as well as the Turkish caucus co-chair Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida.

Ms. Clinton is a co-sponsor of the Genocide resolution in the Senate. In mid-October she told the Boston Globe editorial board that in view of Turkey’s strong opposition, Congress should proceed with caution. But she did not withdraw her co-sponsorship.

Like Mr. Obama, she has repeatedly spoken out on the need to affirm the Armenian Genocide, including in letters to the president and secretary of state. Ms. Clinton’s range of supporters in Congress includes national campaign chair Sen. Bob Menendez, a strong supporter of Armenian- American issues, Rep. Brad Sherman of California, who has a significant Armenian-American constituency, and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., of New Jersey, who is co-chair of the Armenian issues caucus in the House.

As a senator, Mr. Edwards cosponsored the Armenian Genocide resolution. He also supported Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which restricted U.S. aid to Azerbaijan because of its blockade of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Democratic Party primaries will be held on February 5 in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. Kansas will hold caucuses on that day.

Alexa Millinger contributed reporting for this story.

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