By Kevin Bogardus - 11/08/09 10:42 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has applied subtle pressure
on the Obama administration over a U.S.-brokered deal between Armenia
In an Oct. 20 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Reid said she should meet with Armenian-American leaders to hear their concerns about the agreement between the two countries. Activists are particularly worried about one provision of the agreement that would set up a historical commission to review the events surrounding the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I.
“Given the serious nature of the community's concerns, I felt it was important to raise them directly with you. The commission is particularly sensitive to the Armenian-American community since the Armenian genocide has never been recognized by Turkey,” Reid wrote. The Democratic leader then encouraged Clinton to meet with activists from the Armenian community.
Lawmakers are gathering co-sponsors for resolutions that would recognize the early 19th century massacre as genocide. Last week, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) signed onto the House resolution and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) added his name to the list of co-sponsors to the Senate version.
The House resolution, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), now has 135 co-sponsors while the Senate version, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in late October, has six co-sponsors.
Reid is not listed as a co-sponsor yet of the Senate resolution. But he said in a separate Oct. 30 letter to an Armenian-American activist that he recognizes the killings as genocide.
“I have always, and will continue to, recognize the terrible atrocities that took place in 1915 as genocide. As I said to those gathered for the Armenian American Cultural Society of Las Vegas' annual commemoration on April 19, 2009, I believe that the United States should acknowledge the Armenian Genocide,” Reid wrote in the letter.
Despite the historic agreement reached between Armenia and Turkey last month, both sides are preparing for a lobbying battle over the resolutions. The Turkish government opposes the resolutions and has threatened relations with the United States over the measures in the past. Because of potential retaliation by Turkey, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) retreated from bringing the resolution up for a floor vote in 2007.
The letters were released to reporters on Friday by the Armenian National Committee of America.