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JUNE 2015



This administration is under no illusions about the continued barri-

ers to internationally recognized freedoms that remain for the Cuban

people, nor are we under illusions about the nature of the Cuban govern-

ment. When we sat down with our counterparts in Havana, we were clear

that our governments have both shared interests and sharp differences. From

mail service to counternarcotics to oil spill mitigation, we owe our people

a diplomatic relationship that allows an effective pursuit of their

interests. On these types of practical issues, we agreed to continue

dialogue and increase cooperation.

—Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson speaking

before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Feb. 3.

Contemporary Quote

Time to Recognize

“The Great Crime”?


pril 24 marked the 100th anniversary

of the beginning of the period (1915-

1923) during which 1.5 million Armenians

were systematically displaced and killed

under Ottoman rule. Of the remain-

ing population, 90 percent fled to other


The Armenian diaspora, a large part of

which lives in the United States, continues

to commemorate the trauma of “Medz

Yeghern,” the “Great Crime.” Although

the genocide is now an acknowledged

historical fact, only 25 countries recog-

nize the events of 1915-1923 as genocide.

Most—including the United States—do

not officially use the term, in deference to


Many advocates have expressed hope

that the 100th anniversary year will be

a turning point. In April, Pope Francis

became the first Pope to publicly rec-

ognize “the first genocide of the 20th

century.” In response, Turkey recalled its

Vatican-based envoy, who stated: “I find

the Pope’s statement immoral, and can’t

reconcile it with basic Christian values.”

Germany, Austria and the European

Parliament all reversed their positions

of non-recognition in April. Russia and

France have long recognized the geno-

cide, and Presidents Putin and Hollande

attended the anniversary ceremonies in


From the United States, reality TV star

and pop culture fixture KimKardashian,

who is of Armenian descent and has

publicly called for genocide recognition

for several years, visited Yerevan for the

anniversary. Her trip was widely covered

by mainstreammedia outlets and docu-

mented for her reality television show,

Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Although Kardashian was criticized for

her use of, perhaps overly enthusiastic,

exclamation points in her anniversary

tweets, millions of Twitter and Instagram

users heard about the Armenian geno-

cide, probably for the first time.

In Washington, President Barack

Obama issued a statement of sympathy,

avoiding use of the term genocide. Arme-

nia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian

spoke at the National Press Club on May 7

as a member of President Serzh Sargsyan’s

delegation to the commemorative events

in Washington that drew thousands from

the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

In connection with the anniversary, the

Helsinki Commission held a hearing on

the effects of continued U.S. non-recogni-

tion of the genocide on April 23, which


Foreign Service Journal

attended. Chaired

by Rep. Chris H. Smith (R-N.J.), the hear-

ing featured testimony from both academ-

ics and representatives from the Armenian

National Committee of America, the

Armenian Assembly of America and the

Genocide Education Project.

Mentioned at the hearing was the fact

that, as a senator, Pres. Obama advocated

for recognition of the Armenian genocide

and criticized those who refused to use the

term. All five witnesses, as well as Chair-

man Smith, urged official recognition by

the United States.

Van Krikorian of the AAA noted that

many Turks are increasingly interested in

investigating their national past, but “it is

still dangerous to advocate for genocide

recognition inside Turkey, and journalists

who do so have been imprisoned, tortured

and even assassinated.”

Other panelists emphasized that U.S.

non-recognition is “hypocritical,” and

that the government cannot continue to

uphold American values only when con-

venient. They maintain that recognition

would make it more difficult for the Turk-

ish government to suppress free speech

and obscure historical truths.

—Shannon Mizzi, Editorial Intern

President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan

speaks at the National Commemoration

of the Armenian Genocide Centennial

Ecumenical Service at Washington

National Cathedral on May 7 in

Washington, D.C.