US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (pictured), in written responses to questions submitted by Member of Congress Howard Berman (D-CA), the Ranking Democrat on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, offered inordinate and undeserved praise for Turkey for taking “concrete steps” to return a tiny fraction of stolen religious properties, but did commit to continuing to both press Ankara to return additional properties confiscated from minority religious communities to their rightful owners, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Representative Berman’s question, which referenced the Return of Churches resolution, H.Res.306, that he helped pass on the floor of the US House, pressed the Secretary as to whether she was “satisfied that Turkey is committed to returning confiscated Christian churches and fully respecting the Armenian and other Christian populations that have lived on these lands since biblical times?” In her response, Secretary Clinton overstated Turkey’s actual actions and offered unmerited praise for its stated intentions, which, even if fully implemented, would return less than 5% of stolen church properties to the rightful owners among Christian and other religious communities. She did however, in keeping with the letter and spirit of H.Res.306, and its Senate companion, S.Res.392, promise that the Department of State “will continue to remain vigilant of the situation for religious communities and encourage needed reforms in the country.”
In response to a second question from Congressman Berman regarding Azerbaijan’s opposition to an OSCE Minsk Group proposal, backed by both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, for the withdrawal of snipers from the front lines, Secretary Clinton restated US support for pulling back snipers as a step toward decreasing regional tensions.
“As a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States remains deeply committed to helping the sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict reach a lasting and peaceful settlement. The US has emphasized that the parties should show restraint in both their public statements and on the ground to avoid misunderstandings and unintended consequences. We reiterate at every opportunity that there is no military solution to the conflict and that only a peaceful settlement will lead to security, stability, and reconciliation in the region.
“We regret any loss of life and continue to call upon the sides to take steps – including the withdrawal of snipers – to improve the atmosphere for negotiations, prevent unnecessary casualties, and strengthen implementation of the ceasefire,” she said.