House International Relations Committee Overwhelmingly Adopts Armenian Genocide Legislation

-International Relations Committee Chairman and Ranking Democrat Lead Strong Bipartisan Majority in Approving H.Res.316 and H.Con.Res.195

-Passage Comes Despite the Strident Opposition from Turkish Embassy–The Livingston Group–and American Turkish Council

WASHINGTON–DC–Following almost three hours of remarks by a bipartisan group of 24 Members of Congress–the House International Relations Committee–today–voted in favor of two measures calling for proper US recognition of the Armenian Genocide and urging Turkey to end its decades long denial of this crime against humanity–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The votes clear yet another hurdle toward full House recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

"We are very gratified by the House International Relations Committee’s broad bipartisan support for today’s action towards US recognition of the Armenian Genocide," stated ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. "The Armenian American community deeply appreciates the leadership of Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA)–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and the support of all our friends on the panel. As we work to build on the Committee’s favorable action–we look to Speaker Hastert to honor his pledge and to schedule a full floor vote on Armenian Genocide legislation at the earliest opportunity."

Rep. Adam Schiff–a lead cosponsor of H.Res.316 and author of H.Con.Res.195 opened the Committee’s discourse on both resolutions. Commenting on Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide–Rep. Schiff stated–"Ankara’s behavior is as inexplicable as it is shameful. Turkey bears responsibility for its decades of denial and for compounding the suffering of the Armenian people by attempting to blame the victims for the crime." Rep. Schiff also recognized three Armenian Genocide survivors–Mrs. Rose Baboyan–Yeretzgeen Sirarpi Khoyan and Mrs. Lusazine Tatarian–whose presence at the hearing was arranged by the ANC Washington DC chapter.

In his concluding remarks–Chairman Hyde responded to argumen’s that passage of the Genocide resolutions could potentially harm US–Turkey relations. While noting that–"I very much believe the [US-Turkey] relationship is of great importance to us," Rep. Hyde stated–"I don’t believe that these resolutions will harm that relationship. They merely recognize the fact that the authorities of the Ottoman Empire deliberately slaughtered the majority of the Armenian community in that Empire." Rep. Hyde went on to note that "denial of that fact cannot be justified on the basis of expediency or fear that speaking the truth will do us harm."

In all–twenty-four Members of the International Relations Committee spoke on the measures–with twenty-one voicing support for Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide and three speaking against. The speakers represented a broad bi-partisan spectrum of the Committee–with 15 democrats and 9 Republicans voicing their positions on the issue. Both H.Res.316 and H.Con.Res.195 were adopted by overwhelming margins of 40 to 7 and 35 to 11–respectively. The complete vote tallies will be provided on the Armenian National Committee of America website–www.anca.org.

Following passage of the measures–Representatives Radanovich–Schiff–Pallone and Knollenberg hailed the Committee’s overwhelming approval of the legislation. Rep. Radanovich noted–"The US National Archives is replete with thousands of pages documenting the premeditated extermination of the Armenian people. As the Armenian Genocide was being committed–the United States launched an unprecedented diplomatic–political–and humanitarian struggle to end the carnage and protect the survivors." Rep. Radanovich continued–noting that "I appreciate the bipartisan support for this resolution [H.Res.316]–which properly acknowledges the Armenian Genocide–reaffirms the proud and groundbreaking chapter in US history to halt the Genocide–and renews our commitment to preventing other occurrences of man’s inhumanity to man."

"This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide," stated Rep. Schiff. "We are working to ensure our country recognizes this terrible tragedy while some of the victims are still alive–including the three brave survivors here today."

Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone stated "Today the House International Relations Committee moved this Congress one step closer to finally recognizing the atrocious acts inflicted by the Ottoman Turks on the Armenian people. It is now up to Speaker Hastert to realize the importance of this legislation–and finally allow a floor vote. I continue to believe that if the entire House has an opportunity to vote on recognizing the Armenian Genocide–the truth will win out and American recognition will finally occur."

Rep. Knollenberg echoed these remarks–noting that–"this legislation will show the world that America is not going to forget this horrible crime. The victims of the Genocide and their families deserve to have the crime recognized for the atrocity that it was. The committee’s action today–and hopefully the approval of the full House soon–will help make sure that this terrible offense is never forgotten."

H.Res.316–which was introduced by Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA)–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–calls upon the President to ensure US foreign policy reflects appropriate understanding of the Armenian Genocide. The resolution includes thirty detailed findings from past US hearings–resolutions and Presidential statemen’s–as well as references to statemen’s by international bodies and organizations. As of today–a bipartisan group of over 140 Representatives have already pledged their support for the measure.

H.Con.Res.195–introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff and cosponsored by over eighty Representatives–was offered following direct negotiations with House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL). The Chairman agreed to Committee-level consideration of Armenian Genocide legislation in return for Rep. Schiff tabling a planned June 8 Armenian Genocide amendment to the House Foreign Relations Authorization bill. The agreement addressed serious concerns on the part of the Administration and Congressional leaders that the Schiff Amendment–which had strong prospects of passing–would overshadow the White House meeting–held that same day–between President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. This measure calls on Turkey to abandon its ongoing campaign of Armenian Genocide denial and to work with Armenia to come to terms with its tragic history.

TURKISH GOVERNMENT/STATE DEPARTMENT OPPOSITION MOUNTS IN DAYS LEADING UP TO COMMITTEE VOTE

The Turkish Ambassador Faruk Logoglu and his lobbyists–including the Livingston Group–actively made the rounds to members of the International Relations Committee–seeking to block any action on US reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide. As part of this effort–the Livingston Group distributed a four-page genocide-denial document to Congressional offices. During the mark up–former Congressmen Livingston and Stephen Solarz and their team of lobbyists–were actively seeking to defeat these measures.

Earlier this week–American Turkish Council Chairman–former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft warned Speaker Dennis Hastert that even the discussion of the Armenian Genocide on the floor of the US House would be "counter-productive to the interests of the United States." In his September 12 letter–Scowcroft–speaking on behalf of the corporate members of the ATC–accused Congressional supporters of Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.316 and H.Con.Res.195) of trying to "pull Turkey away from the West." He stressed that: "The careless use of genocide language provides and excuse to do so–delivering a direct blow to American interests in the region."

The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) also urged Committee members to oppose the measures–arguing that–"disputes over history–such as the Ottoman Armenian Tragedy–should be resolved by open and rigorous historical and legal scholarship–not political resolutions." In an unusual development–the ATAA urged their supporters to actually use the ANCA website and its powerful WebFax capabilities to attempt the defeat of the measures. The ANCA blocked all efforts along these lines.

Both the ATC and ATAA have come under scrutiny in recent weeks as the result of a 10-page story in Vanity Fair detailing FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmond’s reports that it’s officials were involved in illegal efforts to defeat Armenian Genocide legislation in the fall of 2000. According to the article by contributing editor David Rose–Edmonds claimed FBI wiretaps–including those of the Turkish Embassy and Turkish groups such as the American Turkish Council (ATC) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA)–reveal that the Turkish government and its allies boasted of bribing members of Congress as part of an alleged deal to stop consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution.

During the mark-up–lead opponent to the measure–Indiana Republican Dan Burton–called attention to a September 15 letter to Committee Chairman Hyde–expressing the State Department’s opposition to the measures. The letter noted that–"House floor debate on an Armenia resolution could damage US-Turkish relations and could undermine progress by Ankara and Yerevan as they begin quiet talks to address the issue and look to the future."

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