Genocide resolution gets March 4 committee vote

Move puts pressure on Turkey to act on Armenia protocols

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday February 05, 2010

Rep. Howard Berman chairing committee meeting. Armenian Reporter.

Washington - A congressional resolution that affirms U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide and recommends to the executive branch to reflect this understanding in its policies will be formally considered by the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee on March 4, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) reported early on February 5.

"Committee Chairman, Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a leading Congressional supporter of human rights and a longstanding friend of the Armenian American community, has scheduled a vote of his panel on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.252," the ANCA statement said.

Mr. Berman issued a statement later in the day confirming his intention to have his committee vote on the resolution. 

The committee vote is the first necessary step for congressional approval of the resolution that currently has the support of 138 of 435 members of Congress.

ANCA reported that on February 4 its chairperson Ken Hachikian consulted with Mr. Berman, as well as the resolution's original co-sponsors Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), and senior House Foreign Affairs Committee Members Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) to discuss the committee vote. 

A pressure tactic?

Resolution 252 was first introduced almost a year ago. But congressional Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another longstanding proponent of affirmation, are believed to have postponed its consideration because of active U.S. efforts to produce an Armenia-Turkey deal on normalization of relations. That latter effort culminated in signing of Armenia-Turkey protocols last October.

ANCA and other Armenian American groups have criticized this U.S. approach, and also condemned the Armenian government for signing the agreement.

But since the October signing Turkey has refused to ratify the deal and carry out its commitments. Both Armenian and Turkish officials have acknowledged that the diplomatic process is now deadlocked.

Sources familiar with U.S. policy on this issue suggest that the decision to schedule a committee vote at this time may have come with a nod from the executive branch.

The tactic is presumably intended to put pressure on Turkey to move ahead with the protocols' ratification.

For its part, Turkey has sought to use the normalization process as a tool to counter campaigns for international condemnation of the Armenian Genocide.

Past experiences

Armenian Genocide resolutions were successfully voted out of House committees in 2000, 2005 and 2007, but were subsequently not scheduled for the full House vote under pressures from Clinton and Bush Administrations, respectively.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all supported genocide resolutions while they were Senators. As members of the Obama Administration they have not yet taken a position on the resolution.

In his election campaign, Mr. Obama also pledged to affirm the Armenian Genocide in the annual April 24 presidential statement. But like presidents before him, he did not uphold that pledge last year.

At the same time, the president also indicated that his past views on the issue remained unchanged and publicly encouraged Turkey to address its past and improve relations with Armenians.

For the text of the resolution see http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:hr252ih.txt.pdf

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