Schiff Pledges Support for Armenian Genocide Bill

During television interview–Schiff calls establishment of "Reconciliation Commission" an "unfortunate development.

GLENDALE–Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-27) in an interview Tuesday evening on Horizon Television’s Community Forum program–pledged his continued support for an Armenian Genocide resolution in Congress and discussed his upcoming trip to Armenia–which he said will allow him to closely gauge the economic–socio-political and domestic situation there.

Schiff will lead a delegation Monday to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–where he is scheduled to meet president Robert Kocharian–foreign minister Vartan Oskanian–prime minister Andranik Markarian–His Holiness Karekin II–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s and the leadership of parliamentary factions. In Karabakh he is scheduled to meet president Arkady Ghoukassian–foreign minister Naira Melkoumian and other officials.

The five-day trip is sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.

During the interview–Schiff also pledged his continued support for the passage of a Genocide resolution in Congress.

In discussing the Armenian Genocide resolution in Congress–Schiff said that he and his colleagues are currently seeking ways to best address the introduction of a resolution in Congress.

He added that the momentum built last year should be utilized to effectively bring forth a comprehensive recognition and commemoration resolution.

However–the Congressman expressed concern over the establishment of the so-called Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission–viewing it as "unfortunate development."

"I am concerned about how this commission was developed. There is a great schism developed within the Armenian community now over the desirability of such a reconciliation commission. It strikes me as odd that a commission set up to discuss reconciliation excludes the giant issue of the Genocide," Schiff told host Ara Khachatourian during the live broadcast.

"It would be akin–in my view–to having a reconciliation after World War II between Israel and Germany but say that we can’t talk about the Holocaust," added Schiff.

"Part and parcel of why there has been no reconciliation is the fact that Turkey has not recognized the Genocide," explained Schiff–adding "I can certainly understand why there would be a desire–I think appropriate–to have other issues discussed at the same time–but to exclude such a fundamental issue–seems to me will doom the commission to failure."

The Congressman also expressed concern over the way in which the commission was established–saying that in his estimation there was really no effort to garner a broad diversity of viewpoints from the community in creating the group.

"The Turkish appointees all have–I think–a strong background in denial of the Genocide. Within the Armenian community–there was not an effort to seek broad support. If reconciliation is going to be effective–it has to represent the body of opinion within the Armenian community–and I do not think this commission does that. So when you add to it the fact that it has created this division–this distraction from the goal of recognizing the Genocide–I think it has been an unfortunate development," said Schiff.

Schiff added that the reconciliation commission created some confusion among some Congressman–vis–vis the Genocide resolution.

"There may be some members who are genuinely confused," said Schiff–who explained that since the president Armenian Assembly of America is involved in the creation of the commission–certain members in Congress might be inclined to think that the effort had broad community support.

Most importantly–however–Schiff warned that members of Congress who want to side with Turkey and deny the Genocide can use the creation of the commission as a tool to thwart efforts in Congress to successfully pass a Genocide resolution.

"I think…. you have an unfortunate opportunity for those members that want to side with Turkey and want to continue to deny the Genocide–they have an out. They now can say that the Armenian community is supporting this reconciliation commission–they’ve [the community] agreed to go forward without a discussion of the Genocide–why do we want to have one in Congress when representatives of the community themselves don’t think it’s that important to have [the issue] on the agenda," explained Schiff.

He added that those same pro-Turkish Congressmen might "follow the lead of the this reconciliation commission–or at best say we [members of Congress] ought to defer consideration of recognition of the Genocide resolution until this reconciliation commission finishes its work."

To this end Schiff expressed his skepticism regarding the commission. "To begin with–part of my skepticism is when the speaker last year withdrew the resolution from the floor–he sent a letter saying he thought the Armenia’s should get together with the Turks and explore what the facts were. [In doing so–the Speaker] raised the question of whether the facts were the facts–with which I didn’t agree. But it also made the suggestion of this Turkish-Armenian commission. I don’t know whether this commission has anything to do with that. If it does–it doesn’t even follow the mandate in the speaker’s letter–in that it’s excluding the one issue he said it must consider. But I think the speaker proposed that commission frankly as a way to avoid the resolution–and I think this commission–whether it springs from that or a completely separate root–may have the same impact–and I think that will be extremely unfortunate."

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