Sunday, September 21, 2008
Contact: Obama Press Office; (312) 819-2423

On this day, September 21, Armenians and friends of Armenia everywhere celebrate the independence of the Republic of Armenia, and I extend my warmest and best wishes on this happy occasion.  Throughout their long history, a spirit of independence, self-reliance, and survival defines the Armenian people. After centuries of living in the Persian, Russian, and Turkish empires, Armenians first achieved their modern independence in 1918 and regained it after 70 years of Soviet rule in 1991.  Their struggle continues, but in the years of renewed independence they have been able to guide their own destiny through years of war and economic dislocation.   Even in the face of genocide, the pain of the past has not defeated the Armenians, either in Armenia or the far-flung diaspora.

America has benefited tremendously from the vigor and talents of the Armenian people.  Armenian-Americans have made enormous contributions to American life – to our arts and academia, to business, science, and politics – while still maintaining strong ties to their ancestral home.

Recent events in the Caucasus region remind us of both the importance of rededicating ourselves to peace, and the possibility of progress even where there is a long history of alienation.  The conflict in Georgia shows the danger that lurks when rising tensions are ignored and the United States pursues a diplomatic strategy of neglect.  But in recent days we have also seen the hopeful step – taken by the Presidents of Turkey and Armenia — to restart dialogue that could, in time, bring a welcome normalization of relations and offer Armenia more diversified opportunities for trade, transport, and energy supplies.  American policy must build on this step, to ensure that Armenia enjoys a future not merely of independence but of partnership and cooperation with the U.S. and its allies.