Washington briefing: State Department’s incoming Eurasia manager opposed Genocide resolution

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Saturday March 14, 2009

Philip Gordon.

Washington - 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.

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