Armenian Genocide Resolution Approved by Key House Subcommittee

WASHINGTON–A key Congressional panel Thursday adopted the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.398)–rejecting intense pressure from the Turkish government–the US State Department–and a team of high-priced lobbyists led by former Congressman Bob Livingston–reported the "H.Res.398 Committee," a community-wide coalition working dedicated to US affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.

The House International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights–in a voice vote–adopted the measure following remarks in support of its adoption by Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ)–Ranking Democrat Cynthia McKinney (D- Ga.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) spoke against the resolution’s passage–while Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) expressed reservations that the measure was not broad enough.

Supporters of the measure echoed statemen’s and testimony in support of H.Res.398 made during last week’s Subcommittee hearing. Chairman Smith again stressed that while US foreign policy must be "realistic and flexible," it should not be "complicit to a conspiracy of silence about genocide." Representative McKinney–clearly angered by the anti-H.Res.398 lobby’s campaign of "misinformation–disinformation or outright lies," issued a "warning" to lobbyists denying the Armenian Genocide: "They forever shattered their credibility–at least with this Representative."

Republicans Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.)–George Radanovich (R-Calif.)–James Rogan (R-Calif.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) joined Chairman Smith in strong support of passage of H.Res.398–as did Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on Friday condemned the sub-committee approval of the Genocide resolution.

“Taking up a common position with these baseless allegations is ugly and regrettable,” Ecevit told reporters in Ankara–hinting the step could damage ties with Turkey’s NATO ally and major arms supplier.

“This is an instance of the US administration not being sufficiently in control of the representatives–and an unfortunate result has occurred,” he said.

“US Dagger,” proclaimed Sabah newspaper. “In order to win 300,000 Armenian votes in the elections–the US Congress stabs its best ally Turkey in the back.” The mood was reflected in other Turkish newspapers.

Ecevit also cautioned the resolution’s impact on US-Turkish ties would obstruct common diplomatic aims in the Caucasus region.

Turkish officials on recent visits to the United States have lobbied hard to head off the resolution–with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer saying on Friday he had appealed to President Bill Clinton for intervention to avoid damaging diplomatic relations.

“President Sezer pointed out that these baseless allegations which distort history are coming out at election time–and that Congress is taking it upon itself to judge history,” Sezer’s spokesman told reporters.

Speaking prior to Thursday’s vote–Rep. Burton repeated a number of argumen’s traditionally used by the Turkish government–ranging from the denial that there was a genocide to raising concerns over its impact on US-Turkey relations. He specifically warned that its passage would cause Turkey to block US access to military bases in Turkey. Rep. Brad Sherman responded by explaining–"let us remember that Germany played a critical role in our success in the Cold War and in our success in the Gulf War… [If] some future German Government wanted to deny that the German Government did in the 1930’s and 1940’s–we would say ‘no’ and that ‘no’ would be definite."

American Samoa Democrat Eni Faleomavaega–expressed concerns about the resolution–stating "I am totally for the concept that the genocide committed against the Armenia’s ought to be rectified in some way. But let’s also talk about fairness about other events that transpired 50 years ago–a hundred years ago…" Due to time considerations–H.Res.398 co-author George Radanovich (R-Calif.) and New York Democrat Joe Crowley were not able to speak during the hearing–but submitted their statemen’s in support of the measure for the official record.

In addition to those who spoke at the mark-up–other members of the Subcommittee who attended were Reps. Peter King (R-NY)–Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.)–Cass Ballenger (R-NC)–Greg Meeks (D-NY)–and William Delahunt (D-Mass.). Congressmen Jim Rogan (R-Calif.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) attended the mark-up in support of H.Res.398. Following the voice vote–Rep. Burton asked the Chairman to note for the record his opposition to the resolution.

The resolution now faces approval by the House International Relations Committee–following which the bill will move to the House Rules Committee. If the latter approves the measure–then the bill will heard and voted on by the entire House of Representatives–which is scheduled to adjourn on October 6.

Thursday’s vote followed last week’s four and a half hour hearing on H.Res.398. The hearing included powerful testimony in support of this legislation from Members of Congress–including Democratic Whip and H.Res.398 co-author David Bonior (D-Mich.) and California Republican James Rogan. Supporters pointed out at the hearing that H.Res.398 is a statement by the US House on the American response to the Armenian Genocide–and not an attack on the Turkish government or Turkish people. A second panel featured remarks by State Department representative Marc Grossman who indicated that the Administration’s opposition to H.Res.398–rather than being based on the view that the Genocide never happened–is in reality due to the impact that the State Department believes its recognition would have on US relations with Turkey.

A third panel at the hearing included experts in the field of genocide studies–Prof. Roger Smith from the College of William and Mary and Prof. Robert Melson from Purdue University–who presented the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide. Also on this panel were Prof. Justin McCarthy–who argued that the Armenian Genocide is a myth–and Gunduz Suphi Aktan–a former Turkish Foreign Ministry official. Aktan’s testimony warning of the negative effects of the passage of H.Res.398 on regional issues and US-Turkish cooperation was described by Chairman Smith as a "threat," which makes him "suspicious of the [Turkish] Government’s efforts to suppress this information."

H.Res.398 affirms the United States record on the Armenian Genocide and

1. Calls upon the President to ensure that US diplomats dealing with human rights are educated about the Armenian Genocide–and

2. Urges the President to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as genocide in the President’s annual April 24th address.

This important human rights legislation was introduced by Congressman George Radanovich (R-Calif..) and Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.). It has been cosponsored by over 140 Representatives.

Earlier this month–Dennis Hastert–the Speaker of the House of Representatives–stated–during a meeting with Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.) and a group of Armenian American leaders–that it was his intent to bring H. Res. 398 to a vote on the House floor.

H.Res.398 has been actively supported by a coalition of Armenian American organizations including the Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics; Armenian Assembly of America; Armenian Bar Association; Armenian Evangelical World Council; Armenian General Benevolent Union; Armenian Missionary Association of America; Armenian National Committee of America; Armenian Relief Society of North America; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America-East; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America-West; Knights of Vartan; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America – East; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America-West.

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