First published in June 7, 2008 Armenian Reporter
by Emil Sanamyan
U.S. presidential hopefuls flock to pro-Israel lobby event
Underscoring the strong influence of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference held in Washington between June 2 and 4.
Sen. John McCain (R.-Az.), the GOP’s presumptive presidential candidate, sought to portray Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.), as soft on Israel’s security, pointing to his previously stated readiness to negotiate with Iran’s leaders.
Sen. Obama, who this week became the presumptive Democratic nominee, hit back saying that the Bush Administration’s policies have strengthened Iran’s hand in recent years, leaving Israel less secure. He pledged to remain a “true friend” of Israel.
Also addressing the annual gathering were Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.), who had not yet conceded defeat in the Democratic Party’s primary race.
American Jewish Committee reps. visit Armenia
Armenia’s President Serge Sargsian, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian separately received Peter Rosenblatt and Barry Jacobs of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), who visited Yerevan between May 28 and 30.
AJC officials were accompanied by Ross Vartian of the U.S.–Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC). According to government press releases, the meetings focused on Armenia’s relations with U.S., Turkey, and Israel.
Mr. Rosenblatt, a retired U.S. ambassador who is AJC’s chair for strategic policy, and Mr. Jacobs, also a former U.S. diplomat and AJC’s director for strategic studies, were last in Armenia in July 1999 during a regional trip that included visits to Stepanakert, Tbilisi, and Baku.
The AJC officials’ latest trip to the region also included a visit to Turkey. Ankara has long counted on support from Jewish groups for its Washington advocacy efforts. But during last year’s debate on the Armenian Genocide resolution, AJC did not take a public position on the issue.
Minister outlines Turkey’s foreign policy ambitions
Over the next year, Turkey will open 30 new diplomatic missions, mostly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, as part of its effort to raise the country’s global profile, Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan said at the Atlantic Council of the United States, a Washington think tank, on June 3.
According to the Turkish press, as part of his working visit to the United States, Mr. Babacan will be meeting Vice President Dick Cheney, the secretaries of state, treasury, and energy, and members of Congress; he then will proceed to New York for a United Nations conference on June 10–11.
Since 2004 Turkey has been actively courting international support, including through financial aid to distant Pacific and Carribean island states, in the effort to win a two-year term (2009–10) on the United Nations’ Security Council.
The election is scheduled for October 16. In recent years, Turkey has been active as a mediator between rival factions in Lebanon as well as between Syria and Israel.
During his June 3 presentation, Mr. Babacan also pointed to the recent correspondence from Turkish leaders to newly elected and appointed Armenian leaders as reflecting Ankara’s desire to normalize relations with Armenia.
“Of course we have to address the past, the issue of the events of 1915,” Mr. Babacan said and restated his government’s offer of a joint commission of historians, first articulated in 2005, and Turkey’s readiness “to accept any conclusion of the commission.”
On the subject of Karabakh, he expressed support for a peaceful settlement along the lines acceptable to Turkey’s ethnic ally Azerbaijan.
Hopes revive for U.S.-backed Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan gas link
The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, believed to possess the world’s fourth-largest natural gas resources (after Russia, Iran, and Qatar), may be again considering building a pipeline under the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan to export its gas to Europe while bypassing existing lines through Russia and Iran, recent diplomatic forays and media reports suggest.
Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov visited Baku on May 19, the first such visit by a Turkmen leader since 1996. The ethnically linked nations have had frosty relations over the past decade, postponing any bilateral engagement or projects. The two countries have not yet resolved disputes over several offshore hydrocarbon deposits.
The Turkmen visit was followed by Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev’s trip to Ukraine on May 22, where he was reported to have discussed energy issues. And on May 29–30, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and Deputy Assistant Secretary David Merkel, officials responsible for U.S. relations with Central Asia and Eastern Europe, respectively, followed up with a visit to Baku.
Most European states, especially those in Eastern Europe, are strongly dependent on Russia for natural gas supplies. Since the early 1990s the United States has facilitated the development of the Caspian-Caucasus-Turkey energy transportation route in an effort to break Europe’s reliance on Russian supplies.
—Haik Gugarats contributed to this week’s Briefing.
Watchdog cites Turkey for denial campaign
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, released on June 3, includes a report on the Turkish government’s campaign to recruit allies in its effort to deny the Armenian Genocide.
The Intelligence Report, a quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right, has some 300,000 subscribers, mainly in law enforcement, academia, and political activism, plus free Internet access.
A network of U.S. scholars funded by the government of Turkey is part of an energetic campaign to cover up the Turkish genocide of as many as 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, an effort that has found success in Congress and the White House, the article notes.
The article, “State of Denial: Turkey Spends Millions to Cover Up Armenian Genocide,” by David Holthouse, tracks genocide denial from the time when Armenians were still wasting away in the Syrian desert to the present day.
“What we are seeing is a despicable rewriting of history aimed at absolving the perpetrators of mass murder and demonizing their victims,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report.
“It is no different than the Holocaust denial of Nazi sympathizers who claim there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz and Treblinka.”
The summer 2008 issue of the Intelligence Report can be read at www.splcenter.org.
Ex-Speaker Hastert now a lobbyist Meanwhile, Former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) has joined the Washington offices of Dickstein Shapiro, a law and lobby firm. The firm has done work for the government of Turkey and Turkish companies. Reached by ABC News, a spokesperson for the firm could not say whether or not Mr. Hastert would be working on projects involving that country.
A 2005 Vanity Fair article alleged that Turkish groups and individuals at the Turkish Consulate in Chicago had discussed funneling tens of thousands of dollars
to Mr. Hastert in exchange for political favors.
Mr. Hastert’s spokesperson at the time denied that Mr. Hastert had any knowledge of Turkish groups and had done no favors, Justin Rood reports for ABC News.