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John Hughes: The Armenian Genocide Resolution and the Price of Moral Courage

[American journalist John Hughes is founder and Editor in Chief of ArmeniaNow internet daily in Yerevan, Armenia.]

A resolution approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, in recognizing the Armenian Genocide, asks the Obama administration to endorse history at the risk of insulting a needed ally. The passing of House Resolution 252 introduces a new dynamic into the State Department’s hopes for “normalization” of relations between Armenia and Turkey.

The Armenian Genocide is marked as beginning April 24, 1915. On the 94th anniversary last year, President Obama decried the “great atrocities” – but defied his own campaign promise by following the precedent of other modern presidents and stopping short of using the word “genocide.”

HR 252 calls on the president to use the annual April 24 message “to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.”...

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has vowed to stop the resolution where it stands. Mrs. Clinton was the chief diplomat behind a three-country effort shared by Russia and Switzerland last October that resulted in Turkey and Armenia agreeing to try to agree, and follow a set of “protocols” intended to work out their deep differences....

Turkey (which closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in support of Muslim cousin Azerbaijan in its war over the historically Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh) was the first to drag down the process, by insisting that rapprochement cannot carry on unless Armenia returns land it reclaimed from Azerbaijan. Turkey’s insistence on projecting Karabakh into the discussion brings to question whether protocol negotiators were literally on the same page....

The process has also split Armenia’s vast diaspora and has been a source of division domestically – in a cantankerous country that needs no encouragement to divide its diminished self. A large segment of the Armenian diaspora rejected the protocols from the start. (Significantd diaspora institutions endorsed the document, but their support was muted compared to contrary outcry.)

Opponents contested a clause that calls for a “historical commission” to explore what happened from 1915 to 1923 in the Ottoman Empire. They reasoned that such a commission would cast doubt on (as candidate Obama called it) the “overwhelming body of historical evidence” and in doing so would betray lost souls to whom nearly every Armenian can trace a link.

The diaspora is unhappy. The natives are uncertain. Turkey is stonewalling. Azerbaijan is threatening war. Is this the “normalization” the State Department envisioned?...
Read entire article at Christian Science Monitor