Politically explosive Armenian bill coming to US Congress next week

Iran Materials 11 January 2007 16:48

(zaman) - The group of congressmen, consisting of Adam Schiff, George Radanovich, Frank Pallone and Joe Knollenberg, have sent a letter to other members of the US House of Representatives, announcing that they would bring forward the resolution onto the House floor next week and requesting their support for their initiative, sources said. A vote on a similar resolution was postponed at the last minute in 2002, when then House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican, shelved it at the intervention of the US administration.

However, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who became the first woman to be the speaker of the House of Representatives after mid-term elections in the United States in November, promised her voters before the elections that she would work for approval of the resolution.

The Democrats now have the majority in the House of Representatives and a vote on the "genocide" resolution is widely expected to mean its endorsement. The resolution claims that the Ottoman Empire, between 1915 and 1923, massacred 1,5 million of Armenians in Anatolia in a genocide campaign.

The US administration is expected to work to persuade the congressmen not to support the resolution, as it did in the past. Sources say that the administration would try to put the resolution on ice for at least a year. The White House is concerned that the passage of this resolution would undermine dialogue and cooperation with Turkey on a series of issues, particularly on the sensitive situation in Iraq.

Turkey is trying to prevent the draft resolution

Although the Democrats promised to their Armenian-origin voters during the pre-election period that they would push for the resolution, Turkey is still in a struggle to prevent its passage. The Turkish caucus in the House of Representatives, the Turkish Embassy in Washington and professional lobbying companies are telling the US Congressmen that the passage of this resolution would create tensions in relations with Turkey.

Turkey categorically denies allegations of genocide and says the killings came when the Ottoman Empire was trying to quell civilian unrest caused by Armenian revolts in the eastern Anatolia. Egemen Bagis, an Istanbul deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and a close aide of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has contacted notable Congress members, such as Democrat Congressman Robert Wexler and Republican Iliana Ros-Lehtinen, explaining to them that passage of the resolution would spell deep damage in Turkish-US ties.

As the Armenian Diaspora in the United States is preparing to bring up the Armenian genocide allegations in the Congress, U.S. President George W. Bush once again offered Richard Hoagland as the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, although he was turned down by the Senate elected in the end of last year.

Pro-Armenian lobby senators asked Bush to offer another candidate instead of Hoagland. Armenians fiercely oppose appointment of Hoagland, who denies calling Armenian claims as "genocide." Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans was suspended from the office on grounds that he countered official policy of the U.S. State Department by using the expression the "Armenian genocide" during a meeting.

Suspension of Evans caused outrage among Armenians. Hoagland failed to use the expression "genocide" during his address to the Senate to get approval. Therefore, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a supporter of the Armenian lobby, blocked his appointment and was reported to have sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Democrat Senator Harry Reid for naming another candidate to the post. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nick Burns wrote a response to Menendez and Reid telling them not to meddle the appointment of Hoagland with politics.