Clinton Responds to Concern Over Misguided US Policy on Genocide

WASHINGTON–President Bill Clinton has responded to concerns raised by New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman–who had written to the President this April to share his belief that the Administration’s complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide undermines the role the of the US as an impartial mediator in Karabakh conflict.

In his response to Rep. Rothman–President Clinton expressed his "fervent hope" that international attention to the 1915 "massacres and deportations" of Armenia’s would "serve as a warning to those would think about similar deeds in the future." The President again–however–failed to properly characterize as "genocide" the Ottoman Turkish government’s systematic and deliberate annihilation of its Armenian population.

"The reality of the Administration’s complicity in the Turkish government’s denial stands in sharp contrast to the President’s admirable intention to send a warning to those who would think about committing genocide in the future," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The Administration–however–by conceding to the Turkish government’s demand that it not even use the term `Armenian Genocide,’ sends exactly the opposite message to the world–that genocide can be committed and denied and the world will look the other way in the name of political expediency."

In his April 21 letter to the President–Rep. Rothman argued that US complicity in Turkey’s denial–in addition to being morally unacceptable–harmed US interests by undermining our nation’s role as an impartial mediator in the Karabakh peace talks. Citing President Clinton’s 1992 campaign statemen’s on the Armenian Genocide–Rep. Rothman noted that "the Administration’s assurances of security guarantees for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are greatly weakened by our government’s unwillingness–after 83 years–to acknowledge that a crime of genocide was committed against the Armenian nation."

In his May 21 letter–President Clinton stressed his commitment to a "free–prosperous–and democratic Armenia," citing that–on a per capita basis–Armenia receives the highest level of US assistance among NIS countries. Arguing that a lasting peace in the region will require a "stable and productive relationship between neighboring states," he expressed his firm belief that "Armenia and Turkey must move beyond the past to build a future free of rancor–suspicion–and hatred."

The texts of Rep. Rothman’s letter and President Clinton’s response follow.

Text of President Bill Clinton’s May 21 Letter to

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ)

Dear Steve:

Thank you for your letter regarding US policy toward Armenia. As I have stated each year since 1994–the world looks back on the terrible massacres and deportations of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire during the years 1915-23 with sorrow and sympathy. I fervently hope that the international attention these remembrances attract will serve as a warning to those who would think about committing similar deeds in the future.

As you know–I am strongly committed to a free–prosperous–and democratic Armenia–and my Administration has taken the lead internationally in providing humanitarian aid to the Armenia’s in their time of need. On a per capita basis–Armenia has been the number one recipient of US aid among the states of the former Soviet Union. Lasting peace and security for Armenia will not turn on aid alone–but on its ability to build a stable and productive relationship with all its neighbors.

Turkey–a NATO ally and a country with which the United States shares key national interests–is one of Armenia’s most important neighbors. It is my firm belief that Armenia and Turkey must move beyond the past to build a future free of rancor–suspicion–and hatred. My Administration will do what it can toward that end.

For these reasons–a practical approach that takes account of the concerns of both Armenia and Turkey–but looks toward the future–is most likely to advance the mutual understanding between those two countries and promote regional stability.

Sincerely,

Bill [Clinton]

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