No Assembly Required

BY RAFFI HAMPARIAN

A man beats his wife every day for nine straight years. He pauses for one day and as a result receives a grateful thank you note from his wife. Sound crazy–well think again.

The State Department and the Armenian Assembly are praising Turkey’s move last week to lift visa restrictions on Armenian citizens. While Turkey’s gesture is insignificant – the praise for Turkey from the Armenian Assembly is notable.

Turkey maintains an active campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide–provides arms to Azerbaijan–and continues a brutal blockade on Armenia – yet Turkey deserves praise from Armenian-Americans?

The wife beater getting the appreciative note from his wife does not seem so strange after all.

How is it that the State Department and the Armenian Assembly–which seem inseparable these days–are sending messages of gratitude for Turkey’s new visa regime for Armenian citizens?

They are doing so as part of a coordinated campaign–led by the State Department–to improve Armenia-Turkey relations at all costs. In this effort State Department officials are deceptively seeking to avoid the issue of the Armenian Genocide.

As a former senior legislative aide who handled foreign affairs for a Member of Congress for nearly half a decade I understand the reasons for the State Department’s policy. As some members of the Executive and Legislative Branch see it–recognizing the Armenian Genocide is unrelated to the State Department’s interests. To the contrary–they view the Armenian Genocide as a historical nuisance.

More relevant for the reader is why the Armenian Assembly–fresh from its experience with the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission–is serving the State Department’s interests. What about the interests of American citizens of Armenian ancestry? Who is representing their interests in Washington–DC?

After all–it is the State Department that has expressed little interest–and shamefully worked against–affirming the Armenian Genocide. It is the same State Department that has shown itself indifferent to the life and death struggle of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.

Yet the Assembly continues to follow the State Department’s lead–in this instance–praising Turkey for an empty gesture.

Praising Turkey for insignificant policy changes is wrongheaded and dangerous. Wrongheaded because it assists in diverting attention from the need for justice regarding the Armenian Genocide. Dangerous because it ignores the Turkish actions which threaten the lives and prosperity of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

And more–the Armenian Assembly’s reckless praise for Turkey provides an unwarranted public relations boost for that country. A country that–precisely at this time–is bilking billions of dollars from American taxpayers to bailout their failing economy.

I hope the well meaning supporters of the Armenian Assembly will draw the right lesson regarding this latest blunder.

Raffi Hamparian served as the Senior Legislative Assistant for Representative Steven R. Rothman (D/NJ) from 1997 to 2001. In that post he handled foreign affairs matters for the Representative’s work on both the House International Relations Committee and later on the House Committee on Appropriations

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