President Bush Marks Remembrance Of WWI-Era Armenian Killings


The Associated Press
International Herald Tribune, France
April 24 2007

WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush issued a statement of remembrance
Tuesday for the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed at the end of
the Ottoman empire but stopped short of using the word genocide.

The wording followed long standing U.S. policy on the politically
fraught word. The statement comes as Turkish and Armenian interest
groups wrangle over a proposed congressional resolution calling for
recognition of the World War I-era killings as genocide.

Also on Tuesday, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans,
who reportedly had his tour of duty cut short because, in a social
setting, he referred to the killings as genocide, said that Turks
need to confront the facts of the killings and to show contrition
before there can be reconciliation.

"I think there can’t be reconciliation before there is truth telling,"
he said.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by
Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed
by genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey however denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying
the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of
civil war and unrest.

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The issue is highly charged in both Turkey and Armenia. Turkish
officials have said that passage of the congressional resolution will
harm its relations with the United States.

Bush’s statement came as tens of thousands of Armenians marched
in Yerevan Tuesday to mark the April 24 anniversary as the day in
1915 when Turkish authorities executed a large group of Armenian
intellectuals and political leaders, accusing them of helping the
invading Russian army during World War I.

"I join my fellow Americans and Armenian people around the world in
commemorating this tragedy and honoring the memory of the innocent
lives that were taken," Bush said in his statement.

He said that an open historical examination of the facts is essential
for normalizing poor relations between Ankara and Yerevan.

"The United States supports and encourages those in both countries
who are working to build a shared understanding of history as a basis
for a more hopeful future," Bush said.

In a speech in Washington, Evans said that he believes that genocide is
the best word for the killings. He said that following his comments
while he was ambassador in 2005, a clarification renouncing his
phrasing was posted on a State Department Web site. He said that that
he did not write the clarification but did not object at the time to
its posting.

Evans said that it was made clear to him that he could not remain at
the State Department and he left to write a book on his experience
late last year.

Bush’s nominee to succeed him has been held up in the Senate with
Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, blocking the nomination
of Richard Hoagland over the career diplomat’s refusal to use the
word genocide at his confirmation hearing in June.

Evans said that he thought Hoagland was an appropriate choice for the
position, but declined to comment on the process of his confirmation.

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