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Public Statements

On the Armenian Genocide

Location: Washington, DC

ON THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 27, 2006)

* Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise to join my voice with those of my colleagues who once again are commemorating the Armenian Genocide. On this somber day, we take time to recall the horrors of long ago, as Armenians are doing all over the world. Beginning in 1914, over 1.5 million people were systematically killed in what historians call the first genocide of the twentieth century, and over half a million Armenians had to leave their homeland.

* Knowledge about the Armenian Genocide is spreading. Just recently, PBS broadcast an extremely detailed and heart-rending examination of the subject. Even in Turkey, where the government refuses to acknowledge what happened or consider accepting any responsibility for it, a growing number of historians and prominent individuals have openly defied Ankara to speak truth to power. They include Orhan Pamuk, the country's leading writer. Turkish officials sought to bring criminal charges against him for ``defaming Turkishness'' but in the end, thankfully, thought better of it.

* Unfortunately, President Bush, in his annual message about the Genocide, did not use the word. Once again, terms like ``mass killings'' and ``forced exile'' mask the depth of the horror that took place, carefully avoiding the plain truth. In fact, as has been described in numerous newspaper articles, Ambassador John Evans, who was posted in Yerevan, is being recalled for having the courage to say publicly that what happened to the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire was Genocide. It saddens me that the U.S. Government would go to such lengths to deny the undeniable. I would like to commend Ambassador Evans for his bravery--as a career Foreign Service Officer, he must have known what the consequences might be.

* I express solidarity with my colleagues in this Congress who called upon President Bush to call the Genocide a Genocide. I hope this is the last year when the United States Government will shrink from using the word in its description of what the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire endured.

* Finally, in my annual statements on the Armenian Genocide, I often refer to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and comment on the status of the talks underway to resolve it. In the last year, official sources in Yerevan and Baku, as well as Washington, have occasionally indicated that a deal was close. Hopes were high for the meeting last month between Presidents Kocharian and Aliev in Rambouillet, France. Unfortunately, we did not see the desired outcome.

* I hope that the negotiations will soon succeed in resolving this painful conflict. An Armenia at peace with Azerbaijan would not dampen the painful memories of events in the early twentieth century, but it would offer reassurance over the prospects of Armenia in the twenty-first.

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