AAA: State Department Affirms Existing Policy on Armenian Genocide

Armenian Assembly of America
122 C Street, NW, Suite 350
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-393-3434
Fax: 202-638-4904
Email: [email protected]

April 5, 2004
CONTACT: David Zenian
E-mail: [email protected]


Washington, DC — The U.S. State Department, responding to objections raised
by the Armenian Assembly this week, said language used in references to the
Armenian Genocide in its most recent human rights report on Turkey did not
mark a change in long-standing U.S. government policy.

The clarification came days after Assembly Board of Directors Chairman
Anthony Barsamian wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell calling for an
urgent re-examination of the incorrect references and requesting that the
U.S. distance itself from the Turkish policy of denial.

Barsamian said the Assembly was “greatly troubled” by the use of the words
“alleged” and “allegation” in contexts which seemed to be “unequivocally
influenced by Turkish assuage clouding State Department reporting.”

The Department’s response was issued by Armenia Desk Officer Eugenia
Sidereas to the Armenian Assembly Monday.

“Language used in the Department’s (Turkey) country report for human rights
practices referring to the events of 1915 is in no way intended to mark a
change in longstanding existing U.S. Government policy. The report referred
solely to the phrasing used to describe these events by the Turkish
government and individuals. We regret any misunderstanding. President Bush’s
statement on Armenian Remembrance Day articulate U.S. views regarding the
decimation of the Armenian community in Ottoman Turkey and underscore our
hope that Armenia and Turkey will come to a common understanding and
reconciliation,” she told the Assembly.

Under Section 2(a) and again under Section 5 of the Department’s report
entitled “Turkey: Country reports on Human Rights Practices for the Year
2003,” the authors of the report spoke of “the alleged genocide of Armenians
under the Ottoman Empire” and “allegations that the Ottomans committed
genocide against Armenians.”

Both sections cited gross violations of human rights in Turkey, including a
demand by the Turkish Ministry of Education that fifth and seventh-grade
students, including Armenians, prepare a one-page essay – in the words of
the State Department report – “arguing that allegations that the Ottomans
committed genocide against the Armenians are ‘baseless.’ ”

The report was released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
and submitted by the Department to Congress by the department of State on
February 25, 2004.

Barsamian said while as far back as 1982 the State Department had clarified
similar language by adding a footnote to explain that it was “not intended
as statements of policy of the United States … Nor did they represent any
change in U.S. policy,” similar errors appeared in the Department’s most
recent human rights report on Turkey.

“In fact,” Barsamian said in his letter to Powell, “prior to 1982, the
Department of State squarely acknowledged the Armenian Genocide and
recommended that Turkey acknowledge the crimes against humanity.”

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide
organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian
issues. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.