Reactions to Presdient Obama’s Visit to Turkey and His Statements


YouTube video is courtesy of ANCA


YouTube video is courtesy of ANCA

No sooner President Obama’s speech in the Turkish parliament got close to its end, electronic messages, articles, editorials, interviews, reports…were being carried through the wires. For Armenians this visit had a special importance. Could the speech provide clues as to what the President has in store for April 24 when he faces Armenians? Will Obama officially recognize the Genocide of the Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Young Turks?

As expected there is no shortage of opinions, comments, remarks, outright praises or denunciations. Three expressions are selected and are presented to the readers of including (chronoligically) Prof. Dennis R. Papazian’s assessment, former Member of Parliament and Citizenry Judge Sarkis Assadourian’s  critical remark,  and Harut Sassounian’s upcoming column.

Prof. Dennis R. Papazian’s assessment

This moment is historic. We must understand, recognition by the United States is only one part of the greater battle which is to gain Turkish recognition. In effect, President Obama has given us that recognition, and he has done it at a press conference in Turkey in the presence of Turkish President Gul.  Without using the G-word, he said that he had not changed his belief– "which is well-known."  He has said many times and in many places that he will recognize the Armenia genocide.   He said in the Turkish Parliament, attended by both P.M. Erdogan and Pres. Gul, that Turkey should look into its dark past just as America has done, and should discuss "the events of 1915."  He said that in the Turkish parliament! This marks the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Turkey cannot be bludgeoned into accepting the Armenian genocide, it must be persuaded, it must be led there in stages. If Obama threw down the gauntlet, it would have a negative reaction and would be useless for both Armenia and the United States.  In this way he effectively said, I know that was a genocide and you should look into it for yourselves, you have to come to terms with your past as America has come to terms with its past, then Turkey could become a true ally of the United States.

Yes, there will be historic commission, There has to be.  Turkey must find a way of backing down which will not look like an ignominious defeat. You will notice that president Gul said after the Obama press conference, that he is willing even to have French and American scholars on the commission appointed by those two countries.  Denial of the Armenian genocide has been condemned in France, and it is very well known that 95% of all genocide scholars in America accept the fact that an Armenian genocide took place.

Of course, as they say "there is many a slip between the cup and the lip," so the game is far from over. Turkey could move or slide backward at any time. If it does, however, I am sure Obama will make a very public display of his belief that what happened in Ottoman Turkey was, indeed, a genocide.

Obama is handling this situation brilliantly, better than I could ever imagine. He will get Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide and at the same time remain an ally of the United States.

It is a miracle.  Pray for his safety.  A plot was already discovered in Turkey.

Dennis R. Papazian, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Founding Director,
Armenian Research Center
U of Michigan, Dearborn

Mr. Sarkis Assadourian’s Comments

Once again President Obama proved today that peoples’ causes are exchanged for national interests in international diplomacy, no matter who said what, when and where. The Armenian cause was no exception
While appreciating the tireless efforts of American -Armenians on this and other issues, especially Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian leadership in the USA did not anticipate this and thus did not work on a plan B, as it must be done in any international diplomacy or exchanges – a fall back plan.
The Armenian Diaspora was driven to the belief that soured relations between Israel and Turkey will motivate the USA to act and acknowledge the Genocide, because the Israeli lobby would stop opposing the Genocide recognition efforts of American-Armenians. Good luck.
A plan B, or plan Bs, could have included symbolic gestures such as laying a wreath on the tombstone of late Hrant Dink, whose murder by a Turkish fanatic shook the world from Turkey to USA.
That alone could have given us hope that this administration one day, in the next few years could affirm the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians. Now I am not sure whether that official recognition can happen any time soon.
Best regards,
Sarkis Assadourian
Former Citizenry Judge and Member of Parliament
Toronto, Ontario

Harut Sassounian’s Column

Obama Undermines His Credibility by Not Saying Genocide in Ankara

by Harut Sassounian, Publisher, The California Courier, 9 April 2009

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 border in order to pressure Armenia into making concessions on a host of issues, while simultaneously subverting Pres. Obama’s pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Turkish officials have been repeatedly warning Pres. Obama not to issue a statement on the Armenian Genocide, claiming that such a step would disrupt the on-going 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 Pres. 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 Pres. 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 Pres. 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 Pres. 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, Pres. Obama repeated the deceptive arguments advanced by Turkey: "What I’d like to do is to encourage Pres. 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."

Pres. 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, Pres. 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 Pres. 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 Pres. 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: 1-202-456-1111 and leave a message. Unless the White House hears immediately from a large number of Armenians, Pres. 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, Pres. 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 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. 

As expected there is no shortage of opinions, comments, remarks, outright praises or denunciations. Three expressions are selected and are presented to the readers of including (chronoligically) Prof. Dennis R. Papazian’s assessment, former Member of Parliament and Citizenry Judge Sarkis Assadourian’s  critical remark,  and Harut Sassounian’s upcoming column.




  1. I agree with Prof. Papazian

    I agree with Prof. Papazian in that Obama is handling the Armenian Genocide argument with well warranted caution. He has already made his position clear, yet he is respecting the controversial aspect of the issue and isn’t coming out shooting. It will take carefully thoughtout persuasion to convince Turkey to flip sides.

    Frank Brown

    Personal Injury Lawyer

  2. President Obama in Turkey

    President Obama kept his promise and did a marvellous job (for the Armenians) without even hurting Turkey’s officials’ …ego. He didn’t need to use the word Genocide in Turkey by well consideration of local and international political (and economical) delicate conditions. I am positive that in his prior discussions with both the Prime minister and the President of Turkey he must have informed them about his position regarding the Armenian Genocide.


    1. Which promise?

      "President Obama kept his promise…"?

      Avo, which promise are you referring to?  He had explicitly promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide and since he hasn’t.  Being cautious or diplomatic is not an excuse to deny his electoral promises!!

      The following video shows what he said during his campaign

      As President, I Will Recognize The Armenian Genocide – Obama

      Let’s hope he will be a man and keep his promise on April 24, 2009 or anytime during his presidency.

    2. Armenia – Do Not Blame Obama

      Yes, Obama is doing a marvellous job with a tricky and potentially very costly issue for the US, without even hurting Turkey’s (or Armenia’s) officials. The question is what kind of a job is the Armenian regime doing (for the Armenians)?

      In Turkey, Armenia’s MFA Nalbandian has announced that President Sargsyan is ‘warming to the idea of a commission of historians to study Genocide’, yet in Armenia he assures the Genocide issue has never even been discussed in his negotiations with Turkey. Moreover, Nalbandian claims the Turkish border will be opened this year, possibly in April, and Turkey continues to insist resolution of the Genocide issue is a pre-condition.

      It is clear that after Obama has again not used the word Genocide this 24th April, the Armenian regime will rush to impress upon the Armenian people that there is no other alternative but to establish the long-awaited commission of historians.

      The Turkish administration, together with the Armenian regime will jointly dictate the makeup of the commission (including any US and French historians who may be involved) to reach a pre-determined conclusion, to suit the Turkish administration and the self-serving Armenian regime (not the Armenian people).

      Avo Jerejian –Obama has done a marvellous job for the US and Turkey – not Armenia. But Armenia should not blame Obama when the commission of historians decides that Turkey never committed Genocide.

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