First published in June 21, 2008 Armenian Reporter
by Yelena Osipova and Emil Sanamyan
Obama reiterates support for Genocide affirmation
“I share your view that the United States must recognize the events of 1915 to 1923, carried out by the Ottoman Empire, as genocide,” Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said in a June 16 letter to Kenneth Hachikian, chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), the organization reported the next day.
Sen. Obama issued a similar statement on April 24 saying that “it is imperative that we recognize the horrific acts carried out against the Armenian people as genocide.”
And in a January 19 statement “On the Importance of U.S.-Armenia Relations” Sen. Obama pledged that, if elected president, he would recognize the U.S. record on Armenian Genocide, support Armenia’s development, and work to achieve “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.”
The latest communication from Sen. Obama came in response to the ANCA’s letter listing Armenian-American concerns ahead of the June 19 Senate confirmation hearing for the Bush administration’s nominee for ambassador to Armenia (see coverage elsewhere in this issue).
“The Bush Administration’s refusal to [recognize the Genocide] is inexcusable, and I will continue to speak out in an effort to move the Administration to change its position,” Sen. Obama wrote in his letter.
Meanwhile, the Turkish media, including the Turkish Daily News on June 6, have reported on Turkey’s efforts to foster relations with Sen. Obama’s campaign team in part to change his position on Armenian issues.
Speaking at the Claremont Graduate University on June 10, Turkish Consul General in Los Angeles Hakan Tekin noted “that the last three presidents of the United States, they also had similar statements during the elections,” but did not deliver on their pledges when elected, Peter Musurlian of Globalist Films reported via www.youtube.com on June 16.
At the same time, Mr. Tekin suggested that Turkish public may already favor Sen. Obama over his Republican candidate Sen. John McCain who has consistently refused to promise to change the U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide.
Senate Committee urges U.S. to keep focus on Central Asia energy
Sen. Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.) reiterated his concerns over Russian influence on energy supplies to Europe in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on June 12. Sen. Lugar, who serves as the committee’s ranking member (most senior Republican), touted Azerbaijan as an example to Central Asian states.
“Central Asian nations need only look across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan to gain a sense of the political benefits of maintaining a second option for oil and gas exports,” he said in his opening speech in reference to the pipelines now linking Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey and thus bypassing Russia.
The United States has since sought to link up oil from Kazakhstan and gas from Turkmenistan across the Caspian to Azerbaijan to be then transported to Turkey and Europe.
Sen. Lugar also urged the trans-Atlantic community not to take “progress in Georgia and Azerbaijan for granted” and continue to bolster ties with them. He welcomed the recent appointment of the U.S. envoy to the European Union to also serve as envoy on Caspian energy; both he and Committee chair Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) have insisted on that since last year.
“Ambassador C. Boyden Gray’s appointment lends significant weight to this initiative by virtue of his close relationship with President Bush,” Sen. Lugar said.
Mr. Gray, as well as the State Department’s two deputy assistant secretaries Steve Mann and Matt Bryza, visited Baku earlier this month to discuss energy cooperation, Trend news agency reported on June 3.
Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a senior advisor in Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and national security advisor in Carter Administration, shared many of Sen. Lugar’s concerns about Russia.
“We should be more active in negotiating particularly with those non-Russian suppliers who in the long run want to be accessible for the world, but in the short run are squeezed [by Russia],” he said, adding however that “long-term interdependence between the West and Russia” can have a mutually beneficial effect.
U.S.-Russia nuclear energy deal discussed in Congress
Democrats in Congress have questioned the administration’s trust in Russia and its willingness to set the U.S.-Russia Civil Nuclear Agreement into force. President George W. Bush submitted the agreement to Congress on May 13 for review.
The deal is part of U.S. efforts to win international support for U.S.- championed sanctions against Iran while facilitating U.S. companies in their efforts to secure new nuclear power plant construction contracts internationally. A similar deal on nuclear energy with Turkey came into force on June 2 following congressional approval earlier this year. (See this page in the February 9, 2008 Armenian Reporter.)
At the June 12 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, concerns focused on Russia’s unwillingness to back the United States in imposing harsher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
President Bush made the issue of Iran sanctions the focus of his tour of Europe that ended this week.
“We want to hear whether, [the Russia-Iran nuclear weapons-related] cooperation has ceased – and what assurances, if any, Moscow has given our government,” committee chair Howard Berman (D.-Calif.) asked Acting Undersecretary of State John Rood.
Mr. Rood responded that assurances received were sufficient to “mitigate” U.S. concerns and that this agreement would establish a legal basis for a mutually beneficial nuclear cooperation internationally.
“In [certain areas] Russia possesses experience and facilities not widely available in the U.S.,” he said.
Having Russia as the supplier of Iranian nuclear fuel will decrease the likelihood of Iran enriching its own uranium, Mr. Rood told the hearing. He added he has serious suspicions about Iran himself, but said the United States needs Russian cooperation to promote global non-proliferation.
Meantime, Rep. Edward Markey (D.-Mass.) disapproved of President Bush’s recent promise to also send nuclear equipment to Saudi Arabia.
“This is a very dangerous policy and you have to have high standards [for countries you deal with] if you don’t want to see [a spread of nuclear weapons in the] Middle
East,” he said.
Turkey seeks selfsufficiency in weapons production
Turkey is working to achieve selfsufficiency in arms and aspires to become a global arms supplier, according to a study made public at Washington’s Jamestown Foundation on June 17.
The study’s author, Dr. Andrew McGregor said that Turkey’s annual arms exports would reach $1.5 billion in the next three years and that the country is aggressively seeking to increase its market share. The author noted frequent disputes between Turkey and its traditional weapons supplier – the United States – as one important motive for boosting domestic production.
Turkey is also modernizing its own armed forces, which is already one of the world’s largest, to better address asymmetric threats posed by Kurdish insurgents, and “enable Turkey to remain a regional power capable of independent action outside its borders if it feels its national integrity is threatened,” said Mr. McGregor.
See http://www.jamestown.org for the full report.