Saturday, October 11, 2008

Briefly: U.S. Genocide record; Turkish Ambassador marks Armenia independence; Georgian opposition in DC; Russian FM on self-determination

First published in Oct. 4, 2008 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

U.S. Ambassador-Designate to Turkey clarifies position on Genocide

U.S. ambassadors to Ottoman Turkey Henry Morgenthau (1913–16) and Abram Elkus (1916–17) and other contemporary U.S. diplomats described in their communications “an attempt to exterminate the Armenian population,” ambassadordesignate to Turkey James Jeffrey noted in a written response to questions for the record from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair and vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del.)

The exchange, released by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) on September 26, was part of the Senate committee’s consideration of Mr. Jeffrey’s candidacy to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey and a congressional effort to correct the Bush administration language on the Armenian Genocide.

Mr. Jeffrey promised that if confirmed he would continue to encourage “Turkey to come to terms with the dark spots in its history and establishing an honest dialogue within Turkey on these events,” as well as support normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate, released a statement to Armenian-Americans on September 29. The statement was substantially the same as a text sent to the ANCA on February 1. Both communications acknowledged the Armenian community’s contributions to America and Armenia’s cooperation with the United States, but did not promise any positive changes in U.S. policy on matters of significance to Armenian-Americans, such as the Armenian Genocide issue.

Senior U.S., Russian, and Turkish officials mark Armenia’s independence

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce David Bohigian, the U.S. State Department's coordinator for Eurasian energy, Ambassador Steven Mann, newly appointed Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak, and, significantly, Ambassador Nabi Sensoy of Turkey were among more than 100 guests at a reception on September 30 at the Armenian Embassy in Washington to mark Armenia's independence.

According to present and former Armenian Embassy staff, this was the first time since the Armenian Embassy in the United States was established that a Turkish Ambassador attended one of its formal functions. Ambassador Sensoy's unprecedented gesture comes weeks after the first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish president.

(One source told the Reporter that in 1999 Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin together with Azerbaijani Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev visited the Armenian Embassy to pay an informal farewell to outgoing Ambassador Ruben Shugarian. But neither Turkish nor Azerbaijani diplomats have attended Independence Day or Armed Forces Day receptions regularly held by the Embassy.)

Coming up: Armenian prime minister plans U.S. visit

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian will visit Washington between October 9 and 14, U.S. and Armenian officials familiar with the visit's planning told the Armenian Reporter.

Mr. Sarkisian, for whom this will be the first visit in his capacity as prime minister, will meet U.S. officials and participate in the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on October 11-13.

Georgian opposition leaders flock to the United States

Levan Gachechiladze and Hudson's Zeyno Baran on left

Levan Gachechiladze, the main opposition candidate in the Georgian presidential election in January 2008, this week became the latest Georgian pro-Western opposition leader to visit the United States.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, on September 30 about the recent developments in his country, Mr. Gachechiladze argued that it has become "impossible" to unite around the current Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili since he makes "wrong decisions" and there are serious questions about his leadership since Georgia's brief but militarily disastrous war with Russia last month.

Mr. Gachechiladze warned that unless Mr. Saakashvili promptly restores democratic freedoms and shares power with the opposition, "destabilization" will follow.

Georgia's former acting president and parliament speaker until earlier this year Nino Burjanadze, David Usupashvili of the Republican Party, and David Gamkrelidze of the New Rights Party have all visited the United States since the August war.

In a September 8 commentary, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl revealed that "American officials are still seething at Saakashvili [over] his impulsive and militarily foolhardy attack on South Ossetia," provoking the Russian counter-attack and thus causing an "embarrassment" to the West.

"The truth is that it would be considerably easier for the United States to defend Georgia and its democracy if it did not have to defend - and depend on - Saakashvili himself," Mr. Diehl argued.

Although both President George W. Bush and Mr. Saakashvili were at the United Nations General Assembly last week, no meeting between the two has been reported.

Russia touts self-determination in “mini-empires”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia, who was in New York last week for the United Nations General Assembly, offered Russia's views on relations with the United States and international developments in light of the war in Georgia in an extensive presentation to the Council on Foreign Relations on September 24.

Mr. Lavrov spoke at length on nations' right to self-determination, which the Russian minister recalled has long been the "mantra" of U.S. foreign policy and was described as "one of the noblest ideas in our world" by Vice President Dick Cheney during his visit to Italy on September 6.

Mr. Lavrov argued that in addition to major empires, "there exist mini-empires and the same attitude ought to apply to them. If we are to be guided by principle rather than bias and political conjecture, the size should not make difference."

He went on: "The relevant issues are those of oppression, of threat of genocide, of central authorities' inability or unwillingness to bring the minority into the fold peacefully by way of persuasion, creating a climate of confidence and trust, providing a decent and caring government for all citizens."

Speaking of his country's actions in support of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Mr. Lavrov suggested that "Russia is now an advocate of such principles of America as live and let live, give and take, helping the underdog!" Minister Lavrov's remarks in full can be found at

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