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American Congressional Panel Jeopardizes Turkish/Armenian/Azerbaijani Future to Appease Lobbyists fo

Satisfying desires of the Armenian Assembly of America, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to use the word “genocide” to describe the death of “as many as 1.5 million Armenians” during WWI and the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire. This will potentially damage the tenuous relationship that has been developed between Armenia and Turkey.

The recent attempts at normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia came at a cost to Turkey’s relationship with its Turkic neighbor Azerbaijan. Armenians killed many Azerbaijanis in the midst of the colossal land grab by European powers during the period of the alleged Armenian genocide, and the two nations have had tense relations since. However, this House vote has served as an opportunity for Azerbaijan to show solidarity with Turkey, it’s historic ally, using the American resolution to urge Turkey for withdrawal of the recently signed Armenia-Turkey protocol, since it has failed to soften foreign attitudes toward Turkey.

For its part, Turkey continues to reject the use of the term “genocide” with its political and legal connotations, on the grounds that as one former Turkish foreign minister put it off the record, “ethnic cleansing is not the same thing as genocide.”

The question no Americans seem to be asking is: what business is it of American legislators in 2010 if the Ottomans killed Armenians with malice aforethought or through gross negligence almost 100 years ago? This is particularly poignant given the hard work that has been done, and continues to be done to normalize relations between Turkey, an important strategic ally, and Armenia, an EU member with a strong lobby in its European and American diasporas. Fortunately the Obama Administration seems to understand this, and has also rejected use of this term, in spite of President Obama’s campaign promises to the contrary.

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