Newly Declassified State Department Files Reveal US Opposition to Armenian Genocide Recognition by UN

WASHINGTON–DC–A series of formerly classified State Department cables–recently made available through the National Archives and Records Administration–provide first-hand insights into the cooperation during the early 1970s between the US and Turkish governmen’s seeking to block the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the United Nations.

"These files provide new insights into the depths to which our own government has sunk in its complicity with Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "Knowing that sunshine truly is the best disinfectant–we welcome the release of these documen’s and value the growing public awareness of the internal mechanics of our government’s immoral and short-sighted policy of denial–an increasingly untenable policy that is destined to collapse under the growing weight of its own lies."

Commenting on Turkey’s efforts to delete a reference to the Genocide in a Human Rights Subcommission report–the Secretary of State wrote in a March 1974 cable to the US Mission to the UN that:

"Dept [State Department] appreciates Turkish concerns on Armenian Question and agrees that subject should be handled even-handedly. Para [paragraph] objected to by Turkish del [delegation] reads as follows: Quote: Passing to the modern era–one may note the existence of relatively full documentation dealing with the massacres of the Armenia’s–which has been described as "the first case of genocide in the twentieth century" unquote.

Apparently seeking to avoid the international criticism it would face for openly supporting Turkey’s outright efforts to delete this passage–the State Department advised the UN Mission to present its opposition on procedural grounds:

"We would like to support the Turks and Dept [State Department] therefore concurs in USDEL [US Delegation to the UN] suggestion that we inform Turks we willing to speak in support of procedural proposal to urge rapporteur to assure evenhandedness in study. We do not think it would be appropriate to request the rapporteur simply to delete the offending para [paragraph]–although we would not oppose deletion if other dels [country delegations] indicate support for Turkish position."

In March of 1974–the US Embassy in Ankara wrote to the State Department outlining its rationale for opposing the UN’s recognition of the Armenian genocide. Among the reasons cited were:

"[…] Another reason is that the Turks are apprehensive that this year’s commemoration of the Armenian massacres by Armenian communities throughout the world will be on a more impressive scale than in the last few years."

"[…] In addition–at a time when we are trying to persuade the Turks to exhibit some appreciation of our position on the opium issue–we would like to be able to show some understanding for a position on which Turkish emotions have characteristically run high."

In a March 1974 note following the support expressed by the US for the Turkish position–the US Mission informed the Secretary of State that:

"Turk del [delegation] warmly thanked US del [delegation] for support following our intervention."

These files also provide insight into the early efforts by the Turkish Government to obstruct US legislation and prevent other constitutionally-protected efforts by American citizens to work toward the recognition of the Armenian genocide. In an April 1973 cable–the State Department wrote to the US Embassy in Ankara that:

"It clear GOT [Government of Turkey] would like USG [US Government] to halt all Armenian demonstrations–and indeed other Armenian activities which are hostile or offensive to a close ally."

In a second cable–also from April of 1973–the State Department reports that it has responded to Turkish concerns in the following manner:

"We pointed out that peaceful demonstrations could probably not be prevented–but expressed belief that with adequate policing–they could be stopped from getting out of hand."

A June 1974 cable reports on protests raised with the State Department by Turkey’s Ambassador–Selcuk Esenbel–over a recently introduced Armenian genocide Resolution. Under-Secretary of State Joseph Sisco dismissed the legislation–according to the cable–explaining to Ambassador Esenbel that the "resolution must be seen as part of normal domestic electoral politics."

Despite Turkey’s efforts–the United Nation has established a record of recognizing the Armenian genocide:

* In 1948–the United Nations War Crimes Commission invoked the Armenian genocide "precisely? one of the types of acts which the modern term ‘crimes against humanity’ is intended to cover" as a precedent for the Nuremberg tribunals. The Commission stated that "[t]he provisions of Article 230 of the Peace Treaty of Sevres were obviously intended to cover–in conformity with the Allied note of 1915? offenses which had been committed on Turkish territory against persons of Turkish citizenship–though of Armenian or Greek race. This article constitutes therefore a precedent for Article 6c and 5c of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Charters–and offers an example of one of the categories of ‘crimes against humanity’ as understood by these enactmen’s."

* In August 1985–after extensive study and deliberation–the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities voted 14 to 1 to accept a report entitled "Study of the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide," which stated "[t]he Nazi aberration has unfortunately not been the only case of genocide in the 20th century. Among other examples which can be cited as qualifying are? the Ottoman massacre of Armenia’s in 1915-1916." This report also explained that "[a]t least 1,000,000–and possibly well over half of the Armenian population–are reliably estimated to have been killed or death marched by independent authorities and eye-witnesses. This is corroborated by reports in United States–German and British archives and of contemporary diplomats in the Ottoman Empire–including those of its ally Germany."

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