WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)–US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, in testimony Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the use of the word Genocide to describe the events of 1915 would hinder US relations with Turkey and would not contribute to reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.
“The United States and the president have never denied any of these events. The president’s policy has been since 2001, like the previous administrations, that we don’t use the term because we don’t think that the use of that term would contribute to a reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey,” said Fried.
"Reconciliation will require political will on both sides and does require dealing with the sensitive and painful issues, including the issue of the mass killings and forced exile of up to 1.5 million Armenia’s at the end of the Ottoman Empire," Fried said.
"Turkey needs to come to terms with this history, and for its part, Armenia’should acknowledge the existing border with Turkey and respond constructively to efforts that Turkey may make."
At this hearing, Representative Diane Watson (Democrat, California), who represents hundreds of thousands of Armenia-Americans in her Los Angeles district, pressed Fried on whether the State Department has specifically instructed its officials not to use the term "Armenian genocide" even though it acknowledges that what happened was a mass, targeted killing of an ethnic group.
Fried said the massacre is a "matter of historical record" and the United States does not deny what happened, but confirmed that it does not use the term.
Watson pressed Fried several more times to go on the record and answer "yes" or "no" to the question of whether the Bush administration considers what happened to be genocide. Fried continued to insist that it does not deny the massacre. Finally, Watson declared the exchange "fruitless" and turned off her microphone.
Many members of the committee questioned Fried about what the United States is doing to help end the 15-year-old Turkish blockade of Armenia. The World Bank estimates that Turkey and Azerbaijan’s blockades of Armenia reduce Armenia’s GDP by up to 38 percent annually.
Four U.S. House members recently introduced the "End the Turkish Blockade of Armenia" bill, which calls upon Turkey to end its blockade of Armenia.
Fried said the United States supports a normalization of relations as well as the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border.
Fried went on to say that geographic isolation, widespread corruption, and recent setbacks to democratic development have prompted the United States to make supporting Armenia’s integration into the region "a particular priority." Solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would be a major step forward on that integration, he said.
"Renewed fighting is not a viable option," Fried said. "We have concerns about occasional bellicose rhetoric from Azerbaijani officials and we have urged the government, and will continue to urge the government, to focus on a peaceful resolution of this dispute, noting the benefits a resolution would bring for all of the Caucuses."
A few committee members expressed concern at what they said was Azerbaijan’s "intent to go to war" with Armenia. Congressman Joe Knollenberg (Republican, Michigan) quoted President Aliyev as saying "at any moment we must be able to liberate our territories by military means." He asked Fried what the United States has done to stop "this war machine."
"We’ve also explained to them, frankly, that Azerbaijan’s wealth comes from the export of gas and oil, and that a war puts that at risk very quickly," Fried said. "It is also the judgment of the United States that Azerbaijan does not have a military superiority over Armenia and that a war would be costly to both sides and unwinnable by either one."
The United States, he said, supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity but believes the region’s final status must be determined through negotiations that take into account "international legal and political principles." He acknowledged the progress that Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev made when they met in St. Petersburg on June 6, but said more must be done and cooler heads must prevail.
“It is participating with Armenia’s in a search for solutions. The two presidents have met recently. This was a useful meeting and although we consider the rhetoric to be unhelpful, we do not consider Azerbaijan to be preparing for war. We are, however, keeping that under constant review.”
Fried was speaking before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing to examine frozen conflicts and closed borders in the South Caucasus.
He also said U.S. officials do not believe that any outside power, including Russia, should have a sphere of influence over those countries or stand between them and European and trans-Atlantic alliances.
He told the committee that the wave of democracy that swept from Central to Eastern Europe in 1989 has yielded astonishing and successful results in terms of democracy, human rights, and free-market systems. The question now, he said, is whether that wave will extend to the easternmost borders of what he called "wider Europe."
By that, Fried was referring to the Caucasus: specifically, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. They are three very different states that share similar problems. All are struggling to quell internal separatist conflicts, to establish independent judicial institutions and modern financial systems, and, in general, to build new identities as sovereign, successful nation-states.
Fried said U.S. foreign policy toward all three countries is to support them as they journey along the same path toward full democracy and market-based economies that their neighbors to the West have already traveled. He was added that no outside power — here he mentioned Russia’specifically — should be able to extend its sphere of influence over the three.
"We do not believe that any outside power should be able to threaten or block the sovereign choice of these nations to join the institutions of Europe and the trans-Atlantic family, if they so choose, and if we so choose," Fried said.