ANKARA: The Obama Factor

Gözlem Gazetesi, Turkey
June 7 2008

The Obama Factor

The democratic candidate Senator Barrack Obama, pledges to accept the
armenian issue as `Genocide’ while his rival republican candidate
Senator John McCain calls it a `tragedy’.

Now that Hillary Clinton has ended her historic bid to be the first
female President, it is certain that Senator Barrack Obama is the sole
candidate of the Democratic party against John McCain the Republican
candidate. As both candidates fight vigourously to win the race, their
strategies on foreign policy will play a key role in determining who
will become the next United States President. From Turkey’s point of
view, perhaps one of the most important topics is the Armenian issue.

Obama Takes the Armenian Side

The Democratic Party’s top contender for the up coming Presidential
elections in November, Illinois Senator Barrack Obama, pledged to
recognize the killings of Armenians during the World War I era as
`genocide’. `As president, I will recognize the Armenian genocide’,
said Obama in a statement that was published on his official website.

After meeting with officials from the Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA), Obama said, `As a U.S. senator, I have stood with the
Armenian-American community in calling for Turkey’s acknowledgement of
the Armenian genocide.’ `For those who aren’t aware, there was a
genocide that did take place against the Armenian people. It is one of
these situations where we have seen a constant denial on the part of
the Turkish government and others that this occurred. It has become a
sore spot diplomatically.’ said the Democratic senator, while
speaking to participants from his home State Illinois at at a
breakfast briefing in Washington, D.C. in January.

In October the House Bill Passed the Foreign Affairs Committee though,
it did not reach the House Floor due to President Bush’s pressure on
the Democratic leadership. During the time the President had warned
that passing such a bill would damage American Turkish relations as
well as U.S. stategic interests in Iraq and in the Middle East.
Despite the President’s warnings, Senator Obama continued to send out
messages to the US Congress asking the members to pass the pending
genocide legislations in both the House of Representitives and in the
Senate. `As a Senator, I strongly support the passage of the Armenian
genocide resolution,’ he said.

John McCain: It Is a `Tragedy’

The Repu±blican frontrunner of the Presidential race Senator John
McCain coined the death of the Armenians who were killed during World
War I as a `tragedy’, in a letter he wrote to the largest and most
radical Armenian group in America, the Armenian National Committe of
America (ANCA). According to an ANCA statement, McCain in his letter
wrote, `It is fair to say that this tragedy, the brutal murder of as
many as one and a half million Armenians under the rule of the Ottoman
Empire, has also been one of the most neglected.’

Similar to President Bush’s remarks in recent years on April 24-the
commemoration date of the Armenian deaths McCain, pointed out that the
one and a half million Armenians who suffered during the time
represented the prologue to what has come to be known as humanity’s
bloodiest century.’ Both the President and Senator McCain have been
sharply critisized by the Armenian communities for refusing to back
the Armenian genocide resolutions.

OBAMA’S STRATEGY

Obama wrote that he had a `firmly held conviction that the Armenian
Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view,
but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body
of historical evidence.’According to some U.S. and Turkish officials,
behind Obama’s pledge is the strategy to win the support of the
Armenian lobby that has strong ties with a large majority of U.S.
political figures. It is said that the ArmenianAmerican population in
the US is much higher than the Turkish American population in the
United States. The Senator has also been frequently critisized for
having a weak foreign policy throughout his run for the Democratic
Presidential nomination. His rival John McCain has used Obama’s
weakness as well during his campaign towards becoming the next
U.S. president.

The question today is which candidate will be able to maintain strong
TurkishAmerican relations based on their approach to the Armenian
issue. On the one hand there is the Republican Senator John McCain who
describes the incident as a `tragedy’ and on the other hand there is
the Democratic Senator Barack Obama, who has labeled it as a
`genocide’. Only time will tell the outcome.

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