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SENATORS BIDEN, BOXER, MENENDEZ FORCE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO DISTANCE UNITED STATES FROM TURKEY’S GENOCIDE DENIAL POLICY
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Ambassador Nominee to Armenia After Last Minute State Department Clarification
WASHINGTON, DC -- In the midst of mounting Senate scrutiny and the prospect of a “hold” on Marie Yovanovitch’s nomination to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, the State Department, today, cleared the way for her approval by retreating from statements calling into question the historical record of the Ottoman Empire’s destruction of its Armenian population, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Department of State letter – sent in response to sustained pressure from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE), and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) – was issued only hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was set to vote on her nomination. The Committee confirmed the nomination by voice vote, with Senator Boxer going on record against the nomination, citing the Administration’s reluctance to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide. The full Senate will likely consider her nomination prior to their August recess.
“Today’s State Department letter, although clearly falling short of America’s moral responsibility and national interest in recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, did mark a step in the direction of distancing U.S. policy from the dictates of the Turkish government,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “While we, of course, remain troubled by the President’s refusal to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide – as reflected in Ambassador Yovanovitch’s responses – we were gratified to see that, as a result of pressure from Senators Biden, Boxer, and Menendez, the Department of State has retreated from its most offensive and factually unsupportable assertions calling into question the historical fact of Ottoman Turkey’s destruction of its Armenian population.”
Last month, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) delayed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of the confirmation of Ambassador Yovanovitch in response to the State Department’s late responses to the eight sets of written questions submitted to her by members of the panel. In the days leading up to today’s vote, Senators Biden, Boxer and Menendez approached the State Department for further clarification of the nominee’s statements. Facing strong pressure and the prospect of a Senate “hold,” Matthew Reynolds, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, wrote to Chairman Biden to formally affirm that: “the Administration recognizes that the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations of over one and a half million Armenians were conducted by the Ottoman Empire.” The full text of the letter is provided below.
During the Committee meeting, Chairman Biden, and Senators Boxer, Menendez, and Ben Cardin (D-MD) spoke forcefully about the necessity for proper U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, stating that while the State Department’s letter represented progress, the proper characterization of the Armenian Genocide remains a moral imperative and will bolster U.S. credibility in stopping 21st Century genocides. Excerpts from comments by Senators during the meeting are provided below.
On March 28, 2008, President Bush nominated Amb. Marie L. Yovanovitch to serve as America's next Ambassador to Armenia. The ANCA spoke to Committee members about the value of carefully questioning Amb. Yovanovitch on the many issues she would face as the U.S. envoy in Yerevan, among them the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey and Azerbaijan's ongoing blockades of Armenia, and the need for a balanced U.S. role in helping forge a democratic and peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. These efforts have been supported by extensive on-line outreach and a national postcard campaign to key Senate Foreign Relations Committee members.
During her June 19th confirmation hearing, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) sharply criticized the Bush Administration’s policy of Armenian Genocide denial, dramatically pressing the Ambassadorial nominee regarding the Administration’s refusal to properly characterize Ottoman Turkey’s systematic destruction of its Armenian population as a genocide.
President Bush's previous nominee as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard Hoagland, was subject to two legislative holds by Sen. Menendez and was ultimately withdrawn by the Administration, following the nominee's statements denying the Armenian Genocide. The ANCA led the Armenian American community campaign opposing Hoagland's nomination, stating that a genocide denier could not serve as a credible and effective U.S. spokesperson in Armenia. The last U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Marshall Evans, was fired by the State Department for properly characterizing the Armenian Genocide as ‘genocide.’
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: YOVANOVITCH IN NO WAY SOUGHT TO CAST ANY DOUBT ON 1915 EVENTS
30.07.2008 14:17 GMT+04:00
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, Matthew A. Reynolds, Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs sent a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden to comment on questions regarding the process of appointment of Marie
Yovanovitch as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia.
The letter received by PanARMENIAN.Net says,
"Dear Mr. Chairman:
I am writing in response to your concerns regarding responses to questions for the record submitted by you and Senator Menendezregarding the nomination of Marie Yovanovitch as Ambassador to Armenia.
Regarding your Question #1, Ms. Yovanovitch mentions an International Visitors Program under consideration that would bring archivists from Turkey and Armenia to the United States for professional training. Our goal is to help archivists protect the evidence of the past so that future generations will have the documentation of the mass killings and deportations of Armenians committed by Ottoman soldiers and other Ottoman officials in 1915. Our goal is not to open a debate on whether the Ottomans committed these horrendous acts; it is to help preserve the documentation that supports the truth of those events.
Regarding Ms. Yovanovitch's response to Senator Menendez's Question #8, the Administration recognizes that the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations of over one and a half million Armenians were conducted by the Ottoman Empire. We indeed hold Ottoman officials
responsible for those crimes.
In her testimony, Ms. Yovanovitch tried to convey her deep empathy with the profound suffering of the Armenian people and in no way sought to cast any doubt on historical facts.
We hope this information is helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance on this or any other matter."
Senate Set To Confirm New U.S. Envoy To Armenia
By Emil Danielyan
The Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate paved the way late Tuesday for congres - sional approval of President George W. Bush's nominee to serve as the new U.S. ambassador to Armenia.
The diplomatic post has been vacant since the last U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, John Evans, had his tour of duty in Armenia cut short by the Bush administration last year for publicly describing World War I-era mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. While acknow- ledging the deaths of more than one million Ottoman Armenians in 1915-1918, Washington has avoided using the politically sensitive term for fear of antagonizing Turkey, a key U.S. ally.
Richard Hoagland, another career diplomat nominated to replace Evans, saw his Senate confirmation blocked by one of the senators, Robert Menendez, after sticking to the administration's policy during committee hearings last year. The White House had to withdraw Hoagland's nomination as a result.
Menendez, whose New Jersey constituency is home to a large number of ethnic Armenians, joined other Foreign Relations Committee members in recommending Marie Yovanovitch's endorsement by the full Senate despite her refusal to call the 1915 massacres a genocide. His decision not to place a `hold' on Bush's new ambassadorial nominee was in line with the position of at least one of the two main Armenian-American lobbying groups and Armenia's government.
While deploring Washington's reluctance to explicitly recognize the genocide, the Armenian Assembly of America has argued over the past year that the absence of a U.S. ambassador in Yerevan is hampering the development of U.S.-Armenian relations. In a statement issued ahead of the committee vote, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian reiterated official Yerevan's hopes that Yovanovitch will secure congressional approval and assume her ambassadorial duties `soon.'
Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, was the only member of the Senate panel to vote against Yovanovitch's candidacy, having already delayed the confirmation process last month. Boxer, Menendez and the committee chairman, Joseph Biden, wrote to the State Department last week,
demanding further clarifications of the U.S. policy on the issue.
In a written reply sent just hours before the committee vote, the acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, Mathew Reynolds, said the Bush administration `recognizes that the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations of over one and a half million Armenians were conducted by the Ottoman Empire.'
The letter was welcomed by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). `Today's State Department letter, although clearly falling short of America's moral responsibility and national interest in recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, did mark a step in the direction of distancing U.S. policy from the dictates of the Turkish government," Aram Hamparian, ANCA's executive director, said in a statement.
Yovanovitch, who has until now served as U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, is now expected to be confirmed by the Senate before its August recess.
Active Campaign Fighting Denialist Politicians
I’m glad to report that, as of just a few minutes ago, 328 individual Armenian Americans have rallied on-line to donate $23,400 to the Tinker campaign. This is on top of a $5,000 PAC donation, and many thousands more sent in by mail.
The reason for my note today is to ask you to spread the word to your friends and colleagues. Share with them the basic facts of this race (listed below) and ask them to join hundreds of other Armenian Americans in helping unseat Steve Cohen by visiting:
Here are the basic facts:
1) First-term Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) is one of the most energetic opponents
of Armenian Genocide recognition by the U.S. Congress.
2) He is also among the most vulnerable Members of Congress.
3) His Memphis-area district is safely Democratic. The winner of the August 7th
Democratic primary will almost certainly win the November general election.
4) Nikki Tinker, Cohen’s opponent in the Democratic Primary, has pledged to support
Armenian Genocide recognition and other Armenian American concerns.
5) There is simply no more powerful message we can send than kicking Cohen out
of Congress, and replacing him with a friend of the Armenian Cause.
Please explain that, in such a close race, Armenian Americans can make a big difference, sending a powerful message across Capitol Hill that we will not tolerate the denial of the Armenian Genocide. Stress that even a $25 or $50 donation will make a big impact by signaling Washington that our community won't sit still while people lie about our history and undermine the security of our ancient homeland.
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