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A discussion on Armenia

U.S. ambassador to Armenia addresses recent controversy involving Obama and other issues.

June 27, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BURBANK — President Obama’s broken promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide — a move that set off a firestorm of anger throughout the Armenian community — served as a seminal moment where skepticism overwhelmed any sense of promise, members of a large crowd gathered in Burbank said Thursday.

“It’s an issue,” said Minas Nazarian, of Thousand Oaks. “Sooner or later they will recognize it. You can’t deny it.”

During a visit Thursday to the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church in Burbank, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch acknowledged the public displeasure, which still runs deep more than two months after Obama omitted the word “genocide” after making his opinions on the matter clear on the campaign trail.

“I know there is disappointment, perhaps that is not even a strong enough word, and even anger, at President Obama’s April 24 statement,” she said. “You can count on me to convey those feelings to Washington.”

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She also stressed that Obama went further in his words than any previous president in American history.

Throughout her travels across Boston, New York and Los Angeles, the diplomat has met with government officials, religious leaders and representatives of Armenian American communities to suss out relations between the United States and Armenia.

She was scheduled to visit the USC Davidson Conference Center in Los Angeles today.

In crisscrossing the nation as part of the two-week tour that ends Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Yovanovitch has faced probing questions about Western energy interests in the Caucasus region, an open-border policy with Turkey and allegations that the U.S. has glossed over human rights issues there.

She spoke of the need for accountability in the face of corruption that she said permeates all levels of Armenian government, advocating for a transparent media landscape, especially when it comes to covering elections. While improved, last month’s municipal elections were problematic, she said.

“You don’t need to talk to too many people to know that there is a demand for accountability and transparency in government,” she said.

The discussion Thursday in Burbank centered on U.S. foreign policy, government aid efforts and on-the-ground developments in Armenia, where the World Bank projected the poverty rate to increase 5% next year, from 23% to 28%.

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