Key: Obama’s eight years and Armenian issues

Barack Obama
Barack Obama


On January 20 Barack Obama will hand over the position of the U.S. President to Donald Trump. This time Key section will tell about eight years of Obama’s presidency and his relations with Armenia and Armenian issues throughout that time.

1. What was Armenians’ biggest expectation from Barack Obama?

In 2006, when the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans was recalled for using the word “genocide”, Barack Obama criticized then U.S. President George W. Bush’s policy. “The Armenian Genocide is not a claim, a personal opinion or a view, but a fact proved by historical evidence,” he stated.

During the 2008 campaign Barack Obama promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide if he was elected president. He secured support from the U.S.-Armenian community, but never pronounced the word “genocide” after the elections and referred to 1915 massacres of Armenians as “Meds Yeghern” in his statement on April 24.

“Nothing can bring back those who were lost in the Meds Yeghern. But the contributions that Armenians have made over the last ninety-four years stand as a testament to the talent, dynamism and resilience of the Armenian people, and as the ultimate rebuke to those who tried to destroy them,” Obama said in his statement on 24 April 2009.

In March 2011 Armenian President stated in Switzerland that he personally addressed Barack Obama, asking him to use the term “genocide”. Nevertheless, that year the U.S. President avoided the G-word and said:

“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed.  A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Contested history destabilizes the present.”

During the 2012 elections the Armenian community of USA announced they would support neither Obama nor Romney.

Many people expected Obama to say “genocide” at least on the Armenian Genocide Centennial in 2015, but to no avail. “This centennial is a solemn moment.  It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past”, Obama said.

2. What was Obama’s position on Armenian-Turkish relations?

While delivering a speech at Turkish Parliament in 2009, Barack Obama said: “I know there’s strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. 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. I want you to know that the United States strongly supports the full normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. It speaks to Turkey’s leadership that you are poised to be the only country in the region to have normal and peaceful relations with all the South Caucasus nations. And to advance that peace, you can play a constructive role in helping to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

During that visit the U.S. President stated at the joint press conference with Turkish President that he had not changed his views on the Armenian Genocide.

3. What was Obama’s position on U.S.-Armenian relations?

Barack Obama’s last official message to Armenian President was issued on 21 September 2016, on the occasion of Independence Day of the Republic of Armenia. In particular, the message reads:

“The United States has been a steadfast partner of Armenia from the first days of its independence. We remain committed to the promise of those early years, when Armenians proudly raised their tricolor flag for the first time since 1920. Today, we again affirm our belief that a secure, prosperous, and democratic Armenia is essential for the security for the Armenian people and for the region more broadly. We thank Armenia for its support of our shared goals, particularly its response to the Syrian refugee crisis and its contributions to global peacekeeping operations and nuclear security. We will continue to work together to help Armenia realize its full potential.”

4. How many times did Barack Obama and Serzh Sargsyan meet?

On 11-13 April 2010, at the invitation of the U.S. President Barak Obama, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan participated in the works of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. On April 12, he had a meeting with Barack Obama.

Photo: Press service of the Armenian President

The U.S. and Armenian Presidents also had a brief conversation on 30 September 2015 in New York. It took place at the reception, held by the U.S. President Barack Obama in honor of the heads of country delegations participating in the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.

5. What steps did Obama take for the NK conflict settlement?

On 10 July 2009, in the Italian city of L’Aquila, Presidents of the Minsk Group Co-Chair states Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy adopted a statement on the NK conflict, which contained parts of the Madrid Principles that the mediators suggested to the negotiating sides in 2007.

The U.S., Russian and French Presidents adopted another statement in June 2010 in Muskoka, Canada. The parties expressed their support for Armenia and Azerbaijan in agreeing main principles of the NK issue settlement.

In late May 2011 the three Presidents adopted one more statement in Deauville, France, urging Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents to complete the work over basic principles of NK conflict settlement and accept them at their meeting, scheduled for June.

On 23 June 2011, Serzh Sargsyan and Barack Obama had a phone conversation initiated by the latter, ahead of the meeting between Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Kazan.

On 18 June 2012 in Mexican Los Cabos resort, and in June 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Presidents Obama, Putin and Hollande reaffirmed the mediator states’ commitment to peaceful settlement of the NK issue.

On 6 July 2016, Obama and Putin had a phone conversation and discussed the results of the trilateral meeting between Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which took place on June 20 in St. Petersburg.

6. Which Armenian made Barack and Michelle Obama’s viral photo?

After being re-elected as the U.S. President, Barack Obama tweeted “4 more years”, and posted a photo where he warmly hugs his wife Michelle. That photo became a symbol of Obama’s victory and was retweeted for more than 800 000 times. On Facebook, it got over 4.4 million likes and 582 000 shares, setting a new internet record.

The picture was made by photoreporter of Armenian descent Scout Tufankjian. The author of the most viral photo in the history of internet told in the interview to Mediamax that she took the picture in Dubuque, Iowa on the last day of a three day bus tour.

Photo: Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

The First Lady had not been on the first few days of the bus tour, and she and the President had not seen each other for a few days until right before that moment.

Tatev Hovhannisyan, Siranush Yeghiazaryan, Marie Taryan, Narine Daneghyan, Siranush Simonyan, Lena Gevorgyan, Mariam Manoyan


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