Friday, April 17, 2009

State Dept.' incoming Eurasia boss on Armenian genocide, MCC to Yerevan, Clinton pushes 'reset' with Russia

This was first published in March 14, 2009 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

State Department’s incoming Eurasia manager opposed Genocide resolution

On March 6, President Obama named Philip Gordon as the next assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, replacing Daniel Fried.

Since 2000 Mr. Gordon has been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, one of the more prominent Washington think tanks.

Prior to that, Mr. Gordon was the National Security Council director for European affairs in the Clinton White House. He previously held teaching and research positions at Johns Hopkins University in Washington and at leading British, French, and German institutions.

In October 2006, Mr. Gordon co-wrote with his Brookings colleague Omer Taspinar a commentary criticizing a French legislative proposal that would criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide.

The article also noted, “the Turkish stance on the Armenian massacres themselves is becoming an obstacle to its entry into the [European Union],” and argued, “Turks should do more to acknowledge that atrocities – however characterized – occurred.”

“But these initiatives need to come from Turks themselves in a spirit of reconciliation, instead of being imposed from the outside under threat of prosecution,” the Gordon-Taspinar paper concluded.

“Ultimately, historians, not governments, should be the ones to decide these sensitive issues.”

As advisor for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, Mr. Gordon said last June that the senator’s and congressional leaders’ support for the Armenian Genocide resolution provided “structural conditions for [the resolution] to move forward” under an Obama administration.

Mr. Gordon was speaking at an Istanbul conference sponsored by the Turkish business chamber TUSIAD. He added, however, that “there will be the opportunity to make all the usual arguments as we head towards April, all of the old arguments that prevailed will still be true and they’ll be even more true in the first year with new [administration’s] relationship with Turkey.”

“So I would encourage our Turkish friends to not only be prepared to fight [the resolution] as they no doubt will but to have a plan B in mind if it passes because that might well happen whatever anyone thinks of the substance of it,” Mr. Gordon advised at the time.

U.S. aid agency issues fresh warning to Armenia

The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation said it would continue funding its irrigation projects in Armenia, while renewing a hold on the road construction, with both decisions again up for review before MCC’s next board meeting in June.

Armenia “failed over several years to address concerns raised not only by MCC and other U.S. Government agencies, but the international community as well,” the corporation said in a statement on March 11 following its board meeting, chaired for the first time by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It’s now incumbent upon the government of Armenia to restore the Board’s confidence to its commitment to democracy and good governance. MCC has given the government of Armenia every opportunity to make meaningful reforms and will continue its direct communication about its expectations moving forward,” MCC’s acting chief executive officer Rodney Bent said in the statement.

MCC has so far spent about $35 million of what is supposed to be a five-year $235 million Armenia program launched in early 2007.

The corporation aids U.S.–friendly, lower-income countries that are found eligible based on a complex scoring criteria and board’s decisions. connect:

Washington, Moscow press “reset” button

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Geneva on March 6 and pressed a symbolic “reset” button that was specially delivered by Mrs. Clinton and was intended to signal a fresh start to the relationship promised by President Barack Obama.

U.S.-Russian relations became increasingly tense after Russia fought a brief war with U.S.–backed Georgia last August. In subsequent Cold War–like maneuvers, the United States and Russia sent naval vessels to the Black Sea and Caribbean, respectively.

In their joint press conference following the Geneva meeting, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov alluded to Georgia only briefly, focusing primarily on Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea – all areas where the United States is seeking to win Russian cooperation.

Meanwhile, the U.S.–led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said it would resume fullfledged cooperation with Russia, which it had suspended following the Russian-Georgian war.

“Russia is a global player, and that means that not talking to them is not an option,” NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on March 5, RFE/RL reported.

Previously NATO insisted that relations would only resume after Russian forces withdraw to preconflict lines, relinquishing areas in South Ossetia and Abkhazia they captured last August. Russia refused to pull back, having recognized both breakaway entities as independent republics.

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