- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2000

Recognition of Armenian genocide gets bipartisan support [p]

Bravo to The Washington Times for endorsing the Armenian genocide resolution which recommends that the president of the United States refer to the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey during World War I as genocide. This resolution reaffirms the proud record of the United States in response to the first major human rights crisis of the 20th century ("Genocide by no other name," Editorials, Oct. 12). Shame on the Clinton administration for opposing the bill, opting for strategic expediency over moral leadership.

What should be stressed, however, is the bipartisan support for House Resolution 596, which is co-sponsored by more than 140 Democratic and Republican representatives and the leadership of both parties. Recognition of the Armenian genocide is essential for peace and stability in the Middle East and South Caucasus, as well as democracy in Turkey.

The national archives of Germany, Turkey's wartime ally, clearly show that the Armenians had neither the plan nor the intention, much less the capability, to mount a general uprising in 1915. If a parallel must be drawn to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict 75 years later, surely it lies in Azerbaijan's campaign of pogroms, mass killings, and deportations of its half-million Armenian citizens.

Denial of the past and the failure to address it correctly had tragic consequences throughout the 20th century. Recognition of the Armenian genocide affirms our commitment to truth and justice in the century to come.

GERARD L. CAFESJIAN

Minneapolis, MN

'One too many' not only thing that can impair driving[p]

Debra Saunders' Commentary article, which objects to the federal government mandating new traffic safety laws on state governments, is generally on point ("Passing one too many," Oct. 10). But her suggestion that I was the "first to admit that a person's driving could be impaired at .04" was a statement taken out of context.

The use of the word "impaired," as I indicated to Miss Saunders, can be applied to people who are older than 60 or those driving on wet roads, at night, while angry, talking on a cell phone, yelling at the kids in the back seat, driving with worn brake pads, and so forth.

When we use the word impaired loosely, there is a seemingly endless list of dangerous driving scenarios. What is more objectionable is to make assumptions that some impairments are far worse than others, when statistics show them to be otherwise.

Worse yet is the push by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and its federal allies to put people in jail for driving impaired after they have had just two glasses of wine without any evidence of reckless behavior. Impairment and its consequences, it seems, can be found more often in legislative bodies than on our nation's highways.

RICHARD BERMAN

American Beverage Institute

Washington

Kazakhstan's deeds reflect the new republic's progress

Misinterpretation of facts in Amos Perlmutter's Oct. 4 column forces me to respond to his biased and unsubstantiated allegations about the republic and the nature of our relations with the United States. ("More words than deeds on Kazakhstan?" Commentary)

The facts are clear. Both countries have shared goals in strengthening regional stability and security in Central Asia, laying the groundwork for eventual economic prosperity, based on the development of the enormous potential energy resources of the Caspian Sea. Both countries have a shared goal to promote political and economic freedom as a prerequisite for internal and regional stability, the best protection for already impressive investments by American businesses in the Kazakh economy.

Yet Mr. Perlmutter talks about Kazakhstan's failures in ensuring political liberty and free entrepreneurship. Clearly he misses the point.

From the outset, let me emphasize that we follow the rule of law as our chief principle. Power is exercised in Kazakhstan by those elected by our people in accordance with the constitution and corresponding laws. If the developments are undertaken the way they are stipulated in the constitution of the republic, isn't this the very essence of political liberty? Nine short years after achieving independence, we have made a remarkable political and economic transformation.

Kazakhstan is a new nation, and our legislation and practices are first and foremost geared to the preservation of unity and harmony among our ethnically and religiously diverse people, and to a steady and deliberate movement toward democratic and free market values. Our progress is marked. Our commitment to democracy and market reforms is irrevocable and has been indisputably illustrated by our policies and actions.

Last December in Washington, President Nursultan Nazarbaev was awarded the diploma for outstanding contribution to democratic development by the U.S.-based International Foundation for Election Systems. This was a tribute to Kazakhstan's success in developing democracy and to the commitment of its leadership to promote ideals of freedom of thought and conscience in its society.

As for the assessment of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of political processes in Kazakhstan, the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights characterized the parliamentary elections of 1999 as marking a tentative step in the country's transition to democracy.

Nine political parties participated in the elections, and four received parliamentary representation from party lists awarded by proportional representation. Almost 600 candidates contested. Slightly more than 70 percent of the incumbents that sought re-election were actually defeated. During the election campaign, free and equal media time was provided to all candidates.

We are not trying to paint an ideal picture and claim to be perfect: It is difficult to find a perfect society anywhere in the world. What is important, however, is our sincere desire to seek ways to improve the legislation and practice.

On Sept. 2, the first of a series of round-tables titled Improving Election Legislation in Light of Recommendations Contained in the OSCE Final Report on Parliamentary Elections was held in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. Participants at the round-table included representatives of all political parties, nongovernmental organizations, international and local observers, members of the parliament, the OSCE and the Interparliamentary Assembly officials.

The round-table resolved organizational issues in preparation of three more meetings to be held in January, May and September of next year. The January meeting will focus on issues relating to the improvement of election transparency; the May meeting will address the work of mass media during election processes; and the September meeting will consider sanctions for violations of election law and appeals.

Based on the results of all three meetings, a working group consisting of representatives of the parliament, relevant ministries and political parties will summarize election law improvement proposals arising from the round-table discussions and issue a report to the parliament and the government of Kazakhstan.

With regard to the allegations of Mr. Perlmutter concerning the human rights situation in the republic, I should refer to the assessment of the high commissioner of the OSCE on national minorities, Max van der Stoel, as well as of the parliamentary delegations of the European Commission and Great Britain. These authorities have declared that Kazakhstan could serve as a model for many countries in terms of observance of human rights and rights of national minorities.

The real situation in Kazakhstan with respect to independent media gives no ground to accusations of closing the free press. There are dozens of periodicals with national and regional circulation that are openly critical of the government, and they have no problem printing or distributing in the republic. There are no government censorship of these periodicals or attempts to restrict the press's ability to criticize actions or developments the media choose to dislike.

On Sept. 1, at the second session of the new parliament, Mr. Nazarbaev emphasized that the main values Kazakhstan's people have are stability, ethnic harmony and equality, and that these values are the basis for further prosperity of the country. Addressing the parliamentarians, the president called for an expeditious introduction of new legislation in these critical areas to further improve the social welfare of the people and continue market reforms.

The foundation for a liberal economy and a democratic society has been laid. Now the country is moving to the next stage of building on what we have achieved so far.

Kazakhstan is developing a constructive partnership with the United States, and I am confident that this relationship will further grow for the benefit of stability and eventual prosperity in Central Asia.

BOLAT NURGALIYEV

Ambassador of Kazakhstan

Washington

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