Thursday, July 31, 2008

GOP presidential hopefuls mostly mum on Armenian concerns

This was originally published in February 2, 2008 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan

22 states to hold primaries on Tuesday

WASHINGTON – As of January 31, none of the candidates seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination had promised to promote issues of particular concern to Armenian-American citizens. The leading candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination last week issued statements directed at Armenian-Americans.

Voters in 22 states will have an opportunity on Tuesday, February 5, to help choose the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. Veteran Arizona Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas remain in the Republican race following the withdrawal of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani this week.

Mr. McCain, who has served in the Senate since 1986, has consistently opposed congressional resolutions on the Armenian Genocide and has a mixed record on other Armenian issues.

During a January 6, 2008, town hall meeting in Salem, N. H., Hofstra University student Roy Seter asked Mr. McCain about his position on the Armenian Genocide. Mr. McCain said he “didn’t support the measure” to affirm the Genocide, the Hofstra Chronicle reported on January 18. He added, however, “I will be glad to condemn genocide wherever it takes place.”

The Armenian National Committee of America cited Mr. McCain’s correspondence with Arizona constituents in October 2007, in which he said: “Condemning modern Turkey for the acts of the Ottoman Empire would serve only to harm relations with the Turkish people while injecting the Congress into the sensitive role of historian of a period clearly preceding the births of all but a very few congressmen. That is not a development I wish to help facilitate.”

Earlier in his career, Mr. McCain introduced legislation in 1989 supporting a peaceful and fair settlement of the Karabakh conflict and initially supported restrictions on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan introduced in 1992; he reversed that position in 1999.

Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, does not have a clear record on Armenian-American issues.

Mr. Huckabee in 2001 issued a proclamation commemorating the Armenian Genocide. However, he followed that by a proclamation that obscured the genocide by commemorating victims of what he described as “Turkish and Armenian Tragedy.”

Mr. Paul opposes U.S. involvement in nearly all foreign crises, opposing any U.S. action to stop atrocities in Darfur or promote democracy abroad. He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in November 2007 in reference to the Armenian Genocide resolution, “Getting ourselves involved in something that had been 100 years ago – it makes no sense at all. We should deal with our problems here.”

On the Democratic side, as reported in last week’s edition of the Armenian Reporter, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton both stated unequivocally, “as President, I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” 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.”

Ms. Clinton 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.”

“USAPAC, like other Armenian-American advocacy organizations and community activists, will continue to work with all of the presidential candidates throughout the primary campaign, into the general election and beyond,” said Executive Director Ross Vartian.

“We will continue to inform the candidates on issues important to the Armenian-American community, and to solicit their support. We will urge the candidates that have not yet spoken on Armenian issues to do so,” he added.

The two parties will hold primaries or caucuses on February 5 in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah.

The Democrats will hold a primary in Idaho, Kansas, and New Mexico on that day. The Republicans will hold contests in Montana and West Virginia on that day.

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