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THE LETTER OF FORMER US SECRETARIES OF STATE

Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
02 October 2007 - ERAREN
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!ßõ  ellspacing="0" ceÿ2 ,THE LETTER OF FORMER US SECRETARIES OF STATEÛ

The letter sent by eight former US Secretaries of State to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of House of Representatives, last week, is a very significant development regarding House Resolution 106 submitted to the House on Armenian genocide allegations. Former Secretaries of State argued that the adoption of the aforementioned resolution would deteriorate the efforts of reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

ned resolution would deteriorate the efforts of reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. What is more, such an adoption would tense Turkish-American relations and threaten American national interests including the security of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, they demanded from the Speaker not to present the resolution to voting.

Despite being left their posts, US Secretaries of States continue to be quite influential in creating public opinion. It is unusual that eight of them signed the same text and this means that there is an extremely serious situation. After that letter, members of the House of Representatives have to perceive the resolution differently and have to take into consideration that its adoption would damage US interests.

Examined thoroughly, it can be seen that some members of the House, who have previously supported Armenian allegations for years without any hesitation and diffidence, will continue their efforts for the adoption of the resolution, disregarding the possibility of deterioration of American interests. Another group, which is quite crowded and which receives donations or political support from Armenians, will also continue to support the resolution in an inactive way. However, it is thought that the combination of these two groups would not constitute the majority in the House. Former Secretaries of State did not demand rejection of the opposition, but they demanded that the resolution should not be voted, because they thought such a voting would create difficulties for most of the members. Unlike ours, in the American political system, Speakers of the House have significant competence on the agenda of the sessions. It is possible for them not to bring an issue that they perceived inappropriate to the agenda of the House. Actually, twice since 2000, resolutions adopted by relevant commissions and submitted to the General Assembly of the House had been refused to be presented to the agenda by former Speaker Dennis Hastert.

The actual difference between the former experience and current situation stems from the promise given by the new Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to her Armenian voters regarding her support to the resolution and the reaction of the Democratic majority in the House against the policies of Bush administration. However, the letter of former Secretaries of State challenges not only Nancy Pelosi, but also 225 members cosponsoring the resolution; because they would have to bear the responsibility of any disruption of the retreat of or logistical support to American soldiers in Iraq in case of the closure or limitation of usage of ?ncirlik air base as a reaction to this decision. Therefore, it is expected from the House not to vote the resolution as long as Turkish bases are needed for American soldiers in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), one of the most strongest Armenian lobbying institutions in the US, argued that the letter of former Secretaries of State was written as a result of the efforts of lobbying institutions. However, none of these institutions have the power to gather such influential people. These people could only engage in such an initiative in case of an inspiration from White House. Indeed, the issues stipulated in the letter are almost the same with the letter sent by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tom Lantos, Chairman of House Foreign Relations Committee, in last May, on the resolution.

Finally, it should be mentioned that this letter resulted in a deep disappointment in Armenia. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi, in which he disagreed the argument that, if adopted, the resolution would hamper reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia. Furthermore, he wrote that Turkey has presented some preconditions for normalization of bilateral relations. In fact, Turkey linked normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations to the Armenian recognition of Turkish territorial integrity and the redolution of Karabagh problem, since normalization of relations with a country that has not recognized territorial integrity of Turkey would mean to accept pursuance of territorial demands. Opening borders without any resolution of Karabagh question would challenge the position of Azerbaijan, which seek to recover its own territories from Armenian occupation.

Oskanyan also argued in his letter that Turkish proposal for the establishment of a commission to examine historical events was not serious, since Turkish members of the Commission would have been subject to prosecution, if they had declared their opinions freely (meaning, if they accept the genocide allegations). What he referred is the Artical 301 of the Turkish Penal code, which has been criticized particularly in the EU circles. However, this article is not a part of Turkish-Armenian problems. It is seen that the Armenian Foreign Minister sometimes confuses foreign policy with propaganda.

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