Obama Undermines His Credibility by Not Saying Genocide in Ankara

For several months now, I have been exposing the Turkish government’s ploy of creating the false impression that Ankara is engaged in serious negotiations to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan. Turkey has been exploiting the illusive promise of opening the Turkey-Armenia border in order to pressure Armenia into making concessions on a host of issues, while simultaneously subverting President Barack Obama’s pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Turkish officials have been repeatedly warning Obama not to issue a statement on the genocide, claiming that such a step would disrupt the ongoing negotiations between Armenia and Turkey. Regrettably, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s decision to travel to Istanbul this week to participate in the meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations served to substantiate the Turkish government’s contention that all is going well between the two countries.

Azerbaijan’s president, on the other hand, was determined to stick to his guns in safeguarding his nation’s interests. When President Aliyev learned that Ankara was contemplating opening the border with Armenia, he viewed it as a betrayal of Azerbaijan by “fraternal Turkey.” He promptly canceled his planned trip to Istanbul. Aliyev even threatened to block the sale of natural gas to Turkey should it proceed with its announced plan to open the border. He wanted the Turkish border to remain closed in order to force Armenia into making territorial concessions on Artsakh (Karabagh). The Azeri Press Agency reported that Aliyev turned down a personal invitation to Istanbul by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Turkey’s president and prime minister. Aliyev remained unmoved even when he was offered a private meeting with the president of the United States.

It is not clear if Obama was deceived by the Turks’ warnings to third parties not to interfere in the Armenian-Turkish negotiations. It could be that he found it expedient to heed the Turkish objections in order to maximize the concessions he wanted to extract from Turkey on Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a press conference in Ankara on Monday, this is how Obama responded when asked if he had changed his view on the Armenian Genocide: “My views are on the record and I have not changed views. What I have been very encouraged by is news that under President Gul’s leadership, you are seeing a series of negotiations, a process, in place between Armenia and Turkey to resolve a whole host of longstanding issues, including this one. I want to be as encouraging as possible around those negotiations, which are moving forward and could bear fruit very quickly, very soon. And so, as a consequence, what I want to do is not focus on my views right now, but focus on the views of the Turkish and the Armenian people. If they can move forward and deal with a difficult and tragic history, then I think the entire world should encourage them. And so what I told the president was I want to be as constructive as possible in moving these issues forward quickly. And my sense is that they are moving quickly. I don’t want, as the president of the United States, to preempt any possible arrangements or announcements that might be made in the near future. I just want to say that we are going to be a partner in working through these issues in such a way that the most important parties, the Turks and the Armenians, are finally coming to terms in a constructive way.”

When the reporter pressed him for not using the term genocide, Obama repeated the deceptive arguments advanced by Turkey: “What I’d like to do is to encourage President Gul to move forward with what have been some very fruitful negotiations. And I’m not interested in the United States in any way tilting these negotiations one way or another while they are having useful discussions.”

President Gul then took the floor, and in a lengthy response, repeated the standard Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide.

Later that day, while addressing the Turkish Parliament, Obama again carefully avoided using the term genocide: “Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History is often tragic; but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future. I know there’s strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. And while there’s been a good deal of commentary about my views, it’s really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open, and constructive.”

In view of these developments, it is imperative that the Armenian government terminate at once all negotiations with Turkish leaders in order to limit the damage caused by the continued exploitation of the illusion of productive negotiations. Moreover, the Armenian leadership should denounce in the strongest possible terms Gul’s shameful denial of the Armenian Genocide during the Ankara press conference, which was broadcast live by TV networks worldwide.

Meanwhile, Armenians from all over the world should inundate the White House Comment Line with phone calls to inform Obama that his statements on the Armenian Genocide in Ankara did not go far enough and do not fulfill his solemn promises on this important issue. Please call (202) 456-1111 and leave a message. Unless the White House hears immediately from a large number of Armenians, Obama and his aides might think that Armenians are satisfied with the remarks he made in Ankara. The president may then not issue a statement on April 24 or he may repeat the same unacceptable words he used in Turkey.

Finally, Obama should understand that the significance of keeping his word on the Armenian Genocide goes beyond this issue and has a direct bearing on his overall credibility. Within hours of the president’s remarks in Ankara, the Politifact.com website questioned his integrity, having concluded that he had broken his promise on the Armenian Genocide—one of the 511 campaign promises that the website keeps track of, to verify his trustworthiness.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Shows you how misguided the ANCA National Committee is. Was this the reason people were asked to support Obama? After almost 100 years, haven’t we learned anything? How are Armenians supposed to move forward if they keep pulling from both sides in a tug of war?

  2. I am sorry to say, seated in California, both the Weekly and Harout Sasounian are asking the impossible from the President of the USA.

    First.- 50% percent of the Press Conference of President Obama in Turkey was dedicated to the Armenian Genocide. Where, when and which US President have done that before? Don’t you understand that this was an “arranged” question by the US President? which caught the president of Turkey off guard. After Obama’s announcement, thousands of Turks demonstrated against him, burned his pictures and shouted Obama go Home, which you did not report.

    Second.- he said the same thing afterwards in front of the stoned faced Turkish Generals, members of the parliament and the government of Turkey, who were not happy.

    Third.- During the press conference President Obama said also (which you alluded) that soon new announcements will be made. The Foreign Minister of Armenia travelled suddenly to Ankara and met with President Obama. What do you think that announcement will be? Please guese.

    Fourt.- The Armenian TV, the spoksman of the Armenian Government, happily announced and commented all transpired in Ankara yesterday.

  3. why we have to sacrifice and japerdising everything over Armenia, a country best kept on life support by russia, supported by the iranian regim, both enemies of the west?

    why we have to take armenian side, a country that occupies 20 % of Azerbaijan’s territori, with the backing of russia and iranian regim, so that we can bring the NOBACCO project down? a progect that russia desperatly trying to dismantle so that the west will stay dependent on russia’s oil and gas?

    come on america let this demanding armenians loose with their best act of victimizing themselves for false-geneside issue that happend 100 years ago

  4. Robert, are you really an American? (You probably are, judging by your poor grammar and spelling skills, and your espousing of revisionist history no doubt learned in our dismal public education system!)

    Real Americans must support truth. Turkey will never admit to the truth of the Armenian genocide because their government is either in collaboration with or in fear of the Islamists in their midst.

  5. judging peopel based on their poor grammatical mistakes is like judging a book by its cover and proves nothing but the person’s narrow-mindedness and shallow point of view’s on important matters that requires depth of knowledge and profesency.

    like I said before, Armenia is russia’s kept life on support poppet, we can’t lose turkey and azerbaijan.

    Azerbaijan pushes an independent policy of exporting its oil and gas, something that makes the big bully russia pissed off.

    I tell you what the truth is, armenia has been thrown in the middle of the game to push azerbaijan and turkey farther away from their wesntern-friendly policies, bring them under Russia’s control, so that they would happily shut down their oil and gas on west and let them freeze without any challenge by alternative energy routs.

    Today Turkey is an economic powerhouse in the region, holding sway from Central Asia to North Africa. Its image of a democratic, secular and thriving Islamic country is sustained by unprecedented diplomatic efforts. In recent years it has opened some 12 embassies and 20 consulates across Africa, and last year acted as host in Istanbul to the first Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit, attended by 50 African states at the highest levels.

    what US and in general west will win by supporting Armenia, russia and iran’s regim kept on life support puppet?

    what landlocked armenia has got to offer? other than its 4 million diaspora, an army that works as Russia’s pawn in in the court of world public opinion

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