Pallone Heads House Special Order on Genocide

* Reps. Horn–McGovern and Sherman take part in extensive House floor discussion.

WASHINGTON–Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) led an hour long discussion on the House floor Wednesday evening commemorating the Armenian Genocide–condemning Turkish denial–and calling upon his colleagues to support passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Rep. Pallone opened the Special Order stating "I rise today as my colleagues and I do every year at this time to join in remembrance and commemoration of one of the most horrible events of the 20th century and–in fact–in all of human history. That is the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenian men–women–and children during the final years of the Ottoman Turkish empire." He went on to call for official US recognition of the Genocide–explaining "The United States should go on record clearly and unambiguously recognizing the Armenian genocide in setting aside April 24 as a day of remembrance. To that end–I urge renewed effort on the part of Congress to pass a resolution that puts the United States firmly on record on the side of the truth–and I pledge to keep up the pressure on the President to call the genocide by its proper name."

First term Massachusetts Congressman George McGovern concurred–stating "There are official statemen’s each year observing the massacres that took place at the beginning of the century–but for reasons of political expedience–and bowing to Turkish pressure–the United States has never recognized these mass exterminations as genocide–this in spite of the fact that the US National Archives–which is right here in Washington holds the most comprehensive documentation in the world on the Armenian genocide."

Rep. McGovern went on to express his support for the Armenian Genocide bill (H.Con.Res. 55) which "honors the victims of the Armenian genocide and calls upon the United States to recognize the genocide and encourage the Republic of Turkey to acknowledge and commemorate the atrocity committed against the Armenian population from 1915 to 1923."

"Congress is the Proper Place to Discuss the Genocide"

Referring to recent letters and documen’s by the Turkish Democracy Foundation and other Turkish organizations denying the Genocide and attacking Congressional efforts to commemorate this crime against humanity–Rep. Pallone stated–"I would like to say right now on the floor–with all due respect to the Turkish Democracy Foundation–I would say that the Congress is the proper place to discuss the Genocide–as well as classrooms–civic organizations and religious institutions throughout this country. We must not deny the truth. Our responsibility on the floor is to make sure that the truth is told and told and over again–so that genocide does not occur again. That is the point we need to make."

California Republican Steve Horn concurred stating "Because the events 82 years ago are so distant–this House is very right to draw the attention of the Nation to it. But it must be even more forceful–and the US Government–through its diplomatic efforts–should pressure the government of Turkey to admit the role that their predecessors many years ago at that time played in this assault. The continued denial by the Turkish government–our ally in NATO–of this massacre–and that it occurred on its soil–and that Turks were actively involved–only serves to denigrate the memory of those who died and those who suffered and those who suffer today–thinking of their ancestors."

In addition to commemorating the Genocide–the hour long floor discussion touched on a range of issues of concern to the Armenian American community including the continued ban on US aid to Azerbaijan–Congressional action to lift the blockades of Armenia–and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both Representatives Pallone and Sherman’strongly urged a more balanced US position on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Rep. Pallone explained "There is no question that there is a need for humanitarian assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh–and I have to say that I saw that firsthand. And I think the bottom line is that the United States policy needs to be more evenhanded. It does not make sense to say we are going to give money through the non-governmental organizations to Azerbaijan and not to Nagorno-Karabakh."

In discussing the principles of territorial integrity and self-determination as they apply to Nagorno-Karabakh–Rep. Sherman noted "If there was ever a border that should not be given a lot of respect by the international community–it is a border drawn by Joseph Stalin for the purpose of oppressing peoples in the Caucasus. And when we weigh territorial integrity–where the integrity is a Joseph Stalin border and the right of self-determination for a people who have suffered–I think in ways that our Founding Fathers did not–the scales certainly are in the direction of recognizing the rights of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh."

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