Clinton’s last-minute intervention on Armenian genocide bill

After remaining largely silent on the issue, the secretary of state spoke up today: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, a Democrat, on Wednesday to argue that the legislation could harm efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations, the White House said. "Secretary Clinton called Chairman Berman … and in ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.

After remaining largely silent on the issue, the secretary of state spoke up today:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, a Democrat, on Wednesday to argue that the legislation could harm efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations, the White House said.

"Secretary Clinton called Chairman Berman ... and in that conversation the secretary indicated that further congressional action could impede progress on normalization of relations," said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.

After remaining largely silent on the issue, the secretary of state spoke up today:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, a Democrat, on Wednesday to argue that the legislation could harm efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations, the White House said.

"Secretary Clinton called Chairman Berman … and in that conversation the secretary indicated that further congressional action could impede progress on normalization of relations," said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.

Berman has gone ahead with debate on the issue anyway and a vote is expected shortly.

"Turkey is a vital and, in most respects, a loyal ally of the United States in a volatile region," Berman, an influential member of Congress because of his chairmanship of the foreign affairs committee, said at the start of the hearing. "Be that as it may, nothing justifies Turkey’s turning a blind eye to the reality of the Armenian genocide," he added.

"Germany has accepted responsibility for the Holocaust. South Africa set up a Truth Commission to look at Apartheid. And here at home, we continue to grapple with the legacies of slavery and our horrendous treatment of Native Americans," he added.

All in all, the level of cynicism in Washington around this tragic historical event  is pretty disheartening. Like President Bush before him, President Obama was for using the word "genocide" as a candidate before he was against it as president. Former House Majority leader Dick Gephart, who supported recognition as a congressman, is now lobbying against it on the Turkish payroll.

Outside the Armenian-American community, whose grievance on this issue is understandable and shouldn’t be dismissed, most Americans would probably prefer that the congress focus its efforts on preventing and ending current conflicts.

Update: Looks like the Committee approved it. Turkish Ambassador fo the U.S. Namik Tan has reportedly been recalled to Ankara to consultations. This could get ugly. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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