Friday, May 22, 2009

Pelosi on Gen. res., Hastert hired by Turks, ICG report, Georgian FM in DC

This was first published in April 18, 2009 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Speaker Pelosi says she’s committed to Armenian Genocide affirmation

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) reiterated her support for affirmation of the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reported.

In an April 14 letter to her constituents in California's 8th district, Speaker Pelosi noted that she "will continue to support official recognition of the Armenian genocide."

"A grave injustice was committed and the fact that our nation is not officially recognizing these crimes as genocide is a disappointment," Speaker Pelosi was quoted as saying.

The nonbinding House Resolution 252 (H. Res. 252), introduced last month, as of this week had the support of 94 members, somewhat less support than its predecessor resolution - H. Res. 106 - had two years ago in the previous Congress.

H. Res. 252 has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by another supporter of Armenian Genocide affirmation, Rep. Howard Berman (D.-Calif.). But it remains unclear when it might be considered by the Committee.

The Obama Administration has not yet taken a public position on H. Res. 252.

Ex-Speaker Hastert hired by Turkish lobby

The firm of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) will receive $35,000 a month to lobby for the Turkish government, the Hill newspaper reported on April 10 citing public filings made to the Department of Justice as part of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

Mr. Hastert was the Speaker of the House of Representatives between 1998 and 2006. In 2000, Mr. Hastert initially pledged to bring an Armenian Genocide resolution to a House vote after it passed in committee. Just as the resolution was to come to a vote - and pass - he deferred to the Clinton administration, and pulled the resolution off the agenda.

In August 2005, Vanity Fair magazine published a story referring to a federal investigation that looked into payments that Turkish diplomats allegedly discussed making to then-Speaker Hastert and others in U.S. government in an effort to prevent the Genocide resolution from passing in 2000.

While the speaker's staff denied any knowledge of the matter, in December 2005 Mr. Hastert shed himself of $70,000 in "tainted" campaign contributions, directing them to an unspecified charity, the Village Voice reported at the time.

Last February, Mr. Hastert's firm Dickstein Shapiro agreed to take on a sub-contract of Turkey's main government lobby DLA Piper, which is in turn led by former Democratic and Republican House leaders, Dick Gephardt (D.-Mo.) and Dick Armey (R.-Tex.)

DLA-Piper took up the main Turkey contract in May 2007, replacing the lobby of another former senior member of Congress, Bob Livingston, a Republican from Louisiana, who led the Turkish lobbying effort for nearly a decade before that, before Democrats swept the congressional election.

Crisis Group issues report on Armenia-Turkey issues

Armenia, the United States, and European and other countries should avoid "statements or international actions relating to [Armenian] genocide recognition that could inflame Turkish public opinion," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recommended this week.

The 44-page report, "Armenia and Turkey: Opening Minds, Opening Borders," released on April 14, also recommended that Turkey de-link normalization of relations with Armenia from its preconditions related to the Karabakh conflict.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that Turkey still insists on such preconditions, Agence France Presse reported, referring to the Anatolia news agency.

For weeks before President Barack Obama's trip to Turkey on April 5-7, Turkish officials have sought to portray Armenia-Turkey talks as nearing a breakthrough that could be upset should Mr. Obama deliver on his pre-election pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

After Mr. Obama avoided the use of the genocide term while discussing Armenian issues in Turkey, Turkish leaders began to suggest that a breakthrough with Armenia was not that close after all.

A source familiar with the ICG report's preparation told the Armenian Reporter that ICG also waited to hear the words used by Mr. Obama on the subject of the Armenian Genocide. According to the source, the group delayed the release of the report to make sure it was aligned to the wording used by Mr. Obama.

ICG's proposals tend to be in line with policies of the United States and European Union.

Coming up: Armenian Genocide commemorative events in Washington

The co-chairs of the House Armenian Issues Caucus, Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), and Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.), on April 22 will host the annual congressional commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. The event traditionally brings together hundreds of Armenian-Americans and friends, who have an opportunity to meet and hear from members of Congress on Armenian issues.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) will host its third annual "End the Cycle of Genocide: Grassroots Capitol Campaign," between April 22 and 24. The campaign includes visits to offices of the members of Congress to discuss the importance of genocide affirmation.

The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) will hold its annual protest outside the Turkish Embassy in the afternoon of April 24. Later the same afternoon the Armenian Embassy will host its annual wreath-laying and commemorative event.

Additionally, on April 23, the Armenian Students' Network will host a cultural event at George Washington University. On April 25, The Georgetown Boys: A Musical Tribute to Genocide Survival, performed by Hamazkayin, will be featured at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington.

U.S. indicates neutrality on Georgia standoff

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met visiting Georgian foreign minister Grigol Vashadze on April 14 to reiterate "U.S. support for Georgian independence and democracy," but she did not openly support President Mikheil Saakashvili, currently under siege by his domestic opposition.

Mr. Vashadze reportedly sought assurances that the Obama administration would continue to consider Georgian concerns as it sought to expand relations with Russia, The AP reported the same day.

Mrs. Clinton called the Georgian domestic confrontation "a very challenging time in the country's young democratic history." Protests in Tbilisi entered their second week, but appeared to be running out of steam, and the opposition showed signs of fracturing.

Opposition leaders, including several political figures previously aligned with Mr. Saakashvili, have charged the incumbent with authoritarianism and incompetence. Mr. Saakashvili offered to share power with the opposition, but his offer has been rejected.

Like Mr. Saakashvili, his political opponents support Georgia's accession to the U.S.-led NATO alliance. NATO announced on April 15 plans to hold a military exercise in Georgia this May, a move that Russia's envoy to NATO protested, requesting it be postponed.

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