Visit NK and recognize Genocide, ANCA tells Clinton ahead of her Caucasus visit
Published: Tuesday June 05, 2012
Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to travel to the Caucasus from June 4 to 7 to discuss issues of regional security, democracy, economic development and counter-terrorism.
She will visit Armenia on June 4th, Georgia on June 5th, and Azerbaijan on June 6th, prior to traveling to Turkey for meetings on June 7th. For more details about Secretary Clinton's travel schedule in the Caucasus, visit http://www.state.gov/secretary/trvl/2012/191056.htm
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has suggested ten steps that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should undertake during her upcoming visit to the Caucasus region to advance U.S. interests, promote American values, and strengthen the Obama Administration's diplomatic standing in a pivotal region of strategic importance.
1) A public announcement by Secretary Clinton that President Obama, after more than three years in office, will finally honor his promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide and to support the proper recognition of this crime by the U.S. Congress.
2) An official visit to the Armenian Genocide memorial, during which she honors her own pledges to recognize the Armenian Genocide, renounces her assertion that the Armenian Genocide is a matter for "historical debate," and asserts that the Administration will no longer use the failed Turkey-Armenia Protocols as an excuse for complicity in Ankara's genocide denial.
3) A clear statement distancing the U.S. from a recent NATO declaration prioritizing the principle of territorial integrity over self-determination in settling the status of Nagorno Karabakh, and a commitment to strike, from a recently released State Department report, the false assertion that Nagorno Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan, a Baku-backed claim that is directly at odds with President Obama's pledge to work towards a durable settlement "based upon America's founding commitment to the principles of democracy and self determination."
4) A public retreat from the Administration's proposed 19% cut in economic and democracy-building aid to Armenia, and a pledge to both work with Congressional appropriators to honor the President's promise to "maintain" aid levels to Armenia, and also to allocate all unexpended aid that Congress has intended for Nagorno Karabakh.
5) A joint declaration with the Armenian government, in the spirit of President Obama's promise to foster stronger U.S.-Armenia economic relations, announcing talks to implement bilateral trade and investment initiatives, including a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, a Double Tax Treaty, and a Free Trade Agreement.
6) A strong stand, during her visit to Azerbaijan, against the Aliyev regime's escalating pattern of threats and renewed aggression against Nagorno Karabakh, and a public announcement that the White House will not waive Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act as long as Baku fails to commit to a peaceful resolution of its conflict with Nagorno Karabakh.
7) A withdrawal of the Administration's support, in light of Baku's ongoing threats and acts of aggression, for the sale or transfer of any and all arms or dual-use items to Azerbaijan, including the controversial pending sale of advanced helicopter-based sensing equipment.
8) A visit to investigate the medieval Armenian cemetery in Djulfa, Nakhichevan, the site of thousands of intricate Armenian stone crosses (khatchkars) systematically destroyed by the Azerbaijani military in December of 2005, as documented on video-tape.
9) A public expression of U.S. support, during her trip to Georgia, for targeted U.S. economic, development, and infrastructure assistance programs and public-private partnerships for the Armenian-populated Javakhk region of Georgia.
10) A trip to Stepanakert to demonstrate support for the OSCE Minsk Group peace process, to press for the reinstatement of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh as a full participant in all negotiations, and to underscore America's longstanding and proud tradition of supporting the right of all peoples to democratic self-determination.
From the State Department:
Secretary Clinton honors rights advocates
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, joined the U.S. Embassy, Counterpart International, the British Embassy, the OSCE, and the EU to honor individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.
Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at the event and met privately with the award recipients. The Universal Rights Awards Ceremony was the first multi-mission initiative to highlight the contributions of Armenia's civil rights activists, government officials, and media representatives to the promotion of human rights. Armenian government officials, foreign diplomats, NGO representatives, and the press attended the event.
USAID/Armenia Mission Director, Jatinder Cheema, opened the ceremony and awarded Artur Sakunts with the Freedom Defender Award. "Artur defends all minorities, especially those that are the target of intolerance, such as ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. He is not afraid to take unpopular stances, working constantly for a more tolerant Armenia," said Director Cheema.
Counterpart International's Chief of Party, Alex Sardar, presented the Woman of Courage Award to Tsovinar Nazaryan for her military reform efforts. "Tsovinar should be proud of her role in encouraging the military to embrace reform, which will lead to a more modern, effective, and humane force for Armenia," Mr. Sardar said.
The British Ambassador to Armenia, Jonathan Aves, recognized the Deputy Chief of Police, Major-General Artur Osikyan, for his contributions to police reform, especially regarding improvements to the police educational system. "Artur Osikyan has helped lay the foundation for transparent and accountable police force that works for the citizens of Armenia," Ambassador Aves said.
Presenting the award for media excellence to the editors of Epress.am -- Sonya Apresova, Yuri Manvelyan, and Armen Melikbekyan -- the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, commended them for their fair and balanced coverage and commitment to human rights reporting. Ambassador Sorokin stated, "Epress's coverage of human rights plays an important role in informing the public and contributing to public debate. This type of reporting is an important element in Armenia's democratic transformation."
The EU Head of Delegation to Armenia, Traian Hristea, awarded environmental activists -- Apres Zohrabyan, Yeghia Nersesyan, Gor Hakobyan, Mary Khachatryan, and Ruzanna Grigoryan -- for their grassroots campaign to promote environmental conservation in Armenia. "It is the commitment and perseverance of many civic activists that led to important victories for the environment this year. With this award, we would like not only to honor their work, but also to promote their future efforts in Armenia," said Ambassador Hristea.
State Department transcript of the remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on June 4, 2012 at Presidential Palace, Yerevan, Armenia
Foreign Minister Nalbandian: Dear Madam Secretary of State, dear Hillary, it's a great pleasure for me to welcome you again in Armenia. Your last visit to Yerevan coincided with July the 4th, the national day of the United States of America. This visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. The coincidence contains a positive symbolism. Less than two years we have passed since your previous visit to Armenia, but during this period we have had several opportunities to meet in Washington, in different cities, in the frameworks of international conferences. Independent of the months or the year or the place those meetings were held, they were exclusively warm, meaningful, fruitful, containing important and positive messages.
Your visit to Armenia, to the region, testifies to the United States authority special attention to the South Caucasus. The meetings between the Armenian and American leaderships - I would underscore the Washington meeting between Presidents Sargsian and Obama in April 2010 - reflects our strong will to deepen our relations. More than a century-long friendship between our two nations in which the American Armenian community has had a special role was naturally reflected in the two-decades long interstate relations.
Madam Secretary, the mutual trust and understanding existing between our two countries, thanks to our common efforts, thanks to your personal, invaluable input, are the best pillars for expanding our friendly partnership. The bilateral cooperation between the United States and Armenia, which has reached the highest point in its history, concerns such important domains as institutional reforms, deepening of democracy, rule of law, modernization of economy.
We have also close interaction in the international arena, covering regional and international security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fight against all forms of terrorism, peacekeeping cooperations from Kosovo to Afghanistan, and other global challenges. The United States, as a co-chair country of OSCE group, has provided its permanent support to the process of the peaceful settlement of the Nargorno-Karabakh conflict. This process has been under the constant attention of the President and the State Secretary of the United States of America. Together, with the two other co-chair countries, the United States deployed intensive efforts and adopted several high-level important joint statements on the settlement of that issue.
Dear State Secretary, more than once we have expressed our common approach on the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations. That position has been and remains the normalization of relations without preconditions. You have made an exclusive contribution to this process. Thank you very much. Unfortunately, the ball continues to remain in the Turkish court.
Twenty years ago, Secretary James Baker noted that free, democratic, independent Armenia and the United States of America shares the same values: democracy, liberty, market economy, defense of human rights. During those 20 years, the United States has strongly supported Armenia. Today, humanitarian assistance is gradually turning into development projects and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Dear Secretary, we express our gratitude to the President Obama's Administration and to you personally for your commitment and remarkable contribution to strengthening of Armenian-American friendly partnership. I hope that the celebration of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations will open new, wider horizons in bilateral relations.
I would like once again to welcome you, State Secretary, and your delegation to Armenia. The floor is yours.
Secretary Clinton: Thank you very, very much, Minister Nalbandian. I feel very pleased that I could be back here in Armenia once again, and I am very grateful for the warm and gracious hospitality offered by the president and yourself. And it is fitting that I would be here as we celebrate 20 years of U.S.-Armenia relations. Anniversaries like this provide an opportunity to look back on how far we have come and also to look down the road toward what kind of future we want of our relationship and Armenia's position in the world 20 years from now. The president, the foreign minister, and I discussed this at length.
Regarding regional and global security, I thanked the president for Armenia's contributions to our shared mission in Afghanistan and to peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. We also discussed ways to improve Armenia's ties with its neighbors and increase stability and security throughout the region. To that end, we are committed to seeing Armenia and Turkey normalize relations, because we think this is a path forward to a better future for the citizens of both countries and we strongly support ratification of the Turkey-Armenia protocols without preconditions. We commend Armenia and President Sargsian for the leadership they have shown on this issue.
Twenty years ago, Armenia had just begun its transition to democracy. There have been positive steps, and now we need to take more. We know from experience that democracy must be built over time. It isn't about just one campaign or even one election. It is an ongoing project. And we are pleased to see Armenia continuing to work to strengthen your democratic institutions to promote transparency, advance the rights of a free press, root out corruption, respect universal rights and freedoms.
Earlier today, I met several Armenian human rights activists who are working with courage and determination to help make reforms possible and to promote the democratic aspirations of the Armenian people. And we stand committed to working with Armenia as you continue the hard work of democratization.
I am very - I was very pleased at the reports from international monitors about Armenia's parliamentary elections last month being generally competitive and inclusive, where candidates were able to campaign for the most part without interference. There were some electoral problems that were identified, and we hope that Armenia will work with the OSCE and others to ensure that the next election is even better.
Private sector investors are looking for an open business climate with predictable rules; an independent judiciary; transparent regulations, taxes, and customs. And we are pleased at the progress Armenia has made, and we encourage that even more progress occur this year. I am convinced that unleashing the Armenian people's entrepreneurial energy can transform the economy, and we look forward to being your partner in doing that.
Of course, the president and I had a serious discussion of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the most recent incidents along the front lines. While I had only just learned of these incidents, I am very concerned about the danger of escalation of tensions and the senseless deaths of young soldiers and innocent civilians. The use of force will not resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and therefore force must not be used. And we are calling on everyone to renounce force as well as refraining from violence. I assured the president that I would make these points in Baku when I am there the day after tomorrow.
Now, these incidents underscore the necessity to try to keep making progress on the peace process. As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the United States is committed to working with all the parties to find a way forward. And I am very committed that there has to be a way forward. And it's not only the actions of leaders; it must be the actions of citizens as well to try to find a way to enable people of the region to live together in peace and dignity.
So there is a lot of work ahead of us, but I am very pleased to have this opportunity to have come to catch up with my friend and colleague, Eduard, as well as to see the president again to review very broadly regional and global matters as well as our bilateral relations. And I think it's important that we keep working together, because I believe Armenia has a very positive and bright future ahead.
Question: Secretary Clinton, you're visiting three South Caucasus nations at a time of great economic and political change as well as great challenges: Armenia-Azerbaijan, Armenia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran, Georgia-Russia. What does the United States doing to try to open up some of those relationships, especially here in Armenia where there's trade neither with Turkey nor Azerbaijan?
Secretary Clinton: Well, our greatest interest is to see Armenia and Turkey move together toward normalization. We strongly support the efforts that have been made. We have urged the ratification of the normalization protocols without preconditions. As I said when I was here two years ago, the ball remains in Turkey's court. And I am encouraged that there is more public discussion in Turkey and Armenia about these issues, because I think honest, open, constructive conversations are important for both sides to move forward.
With respect to Armenia and Azerbaijan, there is no linkage between the protocols process and the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. Those are separate. But we are equally engaged and pushing hard to try to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh matter.
So on both of these issues in the region, the United States has been and will remain very actively involved. We believe that these are countries that should have open borders, should work together, should trade, should have people-to-people exchanges, because we think that it would be mutually beneficial to all concerned. And one of the reasons for my visit today is to continue working on these two separate but very important processes.
Question: (In Armenian.)
Secretary Clinton: Well, as I said, I am very concerned by these incidents and have called on all parties, all actors, to refrain from the use or threat of force, because there is no military solution to this conflict. It can only be resolved at the negotiating table. And of course, there is a danger that it could escalate into a much broader conflict that would be very tragic for everyone concerned.
And so the United States, along with the Minsk Group, is committed to doing everything we can. And I discussed some specific ideas with the president and the foreign minister today. I made it clear to the president that the United States believes that a peace settlement must be based upon Helsinki principles, the non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. And you can't take one out. They have to be an integrated whole in order to arrive at a sustainable solution.
So we will continue with our efforts. Later this month, the foreign ministers will be meeting. And we're going to be putting ideas forth, because we think it's in everyone's interest to focus on achieving a breakthrough solution and avoiding the escalation of violence.
Foreign Minister Nalbandian: (In Armenian.)
Secretary Clinto: Thank you.