We should never shrink from our responsibility to recognize and to condemn genocide wherever we see it, but the timing of this House resolution condemning Turkey for their past actions against Armenians is very questionable. We have passed similar resolutions previously, and I don’t see the purpose in another resolution, especially now, when we depend so much on Turkey for help with Iraq and in the region. Besides, I thought that the main focus of Democrats as far as condemning genocide was Sudan. When did the focus shift to Turkey? Turkey may have an imperfect past. Right now we need them.
Representative Jane Harman, one of the sensible Democrats, explains why she no longer supports the resolution that she co-sponsored:
I originally co-sponsored the resolution because I was convinced that the terrible crime against the Armenian people should be recognized and condemned. But after a visit in February to Turkey, where I met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Armenian Orthodox patriarch and colleagues of murdered Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, I became convinced that passing this resolution again at this time would isolate and embarrass a courageous and moderate Islamic government in perhaps the most volatile region in the world.
So I agree with eight former secretaries of State — including Los Angeles’ own Warren Christopher — who said that passing the resolution “could endanger our national security interests in the region, including our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and damage efforts to promote reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.”
Timing matters. I asked a leader in California’s Armenian American community just days ago why the resolution was being pushed now. “They didn’t ask me,” he said. It wasn’t his call, and he probably would not have pushed it.
So what is the endgame? I would hope that, regardless of the outcome of the vote, Turkey and Armenia will work toward reconciliation and normalization of relations.
About 70,000 Armenians live in Turkey, and Turkey continues to admit more. Yet Article 301 of Turkey’s Constitution prohibits insulting “Turkishness” — a disturbing provision that has been used to punish Armenians in Turkey who insist the genocide took place. Surely an act of reconciliation would be to embrace the Armenian population in Turkey and repeal Article 301.
Further, Turkey and Armenia have held recent talks about normalizing relations. They share mutual interests in trade, especially in the energy sector. Now is a good time to engage.
And, of course, there is the need for stability in the region. Turkey shares a border with Iraq, and the need for its continued restraint with the Kurds and for its leadership in promoting stability and resolving the Israel-Palestine issue is obvious. Armenia can help.
Harman makes a convincing argument here. We don’t have many allies in the region, and it would be in our interest not to alienate the ones we have. This is not a question of being silent and allowing atrocities to occur. Turkey has moved on from that, and since we have already passed resolutions condemning Turkey for similar crimes, we need to move on as well.