"I join with all Armenian-Americans in voicing our sharp disappointment with President Obama’s failure to honor his solemn pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide," said Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, or ANCA. Both Hachikian and Bryan Ardouny, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, or AAA, accused Obama of failing to keep his earlier promises, made during last year's election campaign, to recognize the Armenian killings as genocide.
The ANCA and the AAA are the two largest U.S. Armenian organizations. "We urge the president to act quickly to correct his administration’s stand on the Armenian genocide by properly condemning and commemorating this crime... and working publicly toward the adoption of the Armenian genocide resolution before Congress," Hachikian said.
The resolution, introduced in March and now being supported by nearly 100 of the 435 lawmakers in the House of Representatives, the U.S. Congress' lower chamber, is pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The release of Obama's written statement Friday came two days after Turkey and Armenia jointly announced that they had agreed in principle to normalize their troubled relationship. The roadmap for the two countries includes measures toward establishing full diplomatic relations, Turkey's opening of its land border with Armenia and a joint probe of their shared history. The Obama administration welcomed the Turkish-Armenian announcement, but State Department spokesman Robert Wood called for the road map to be implemented within a "reasonable time."
"Obama's move to avoid the g-word has practically killed the possibility of any formal U.S. genocide recognition in the next few months," one analyst said. "But if Turkey fails to keep its promises of normalizing ties with Armenia over those months, then the House resolution will be swinging over Ankara's head like the sword of Damocles. And that's what many U.S. Armenians will be looking forward to seeing."
In his statement, Obama urged the Turkish and Armenian governments to deliver on their pledge to improve relations. "I also strongly support the efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize their bilateral relations," he said. "Under Swiss auspices, the two governments have agreed on a framework and roadmap for normalization. I commend this progress and urge them to fulfill its promise."
Although Obama avoided the term "genocide," his statement was tough on the Turks. "History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Just as the terrible events of 1915 remind us of the dark prospect of man’s inhumanity to man, reckoning with the past holds out the powerful promise of reconciliation," he said. "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."