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, 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, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian told PanARMENIAN.Net. 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.” “The U.S. government – and certainly I – acknowledges and mourns the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations that devastated over one and a half million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire. The United States recognizes these events as one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, the “Medz Yeghern” or Great Calamity, as many Armenians refer to it. That is why every April the President honors the victims and expresses American solidarity with the Armenian people on Remembrance Day. The Administration understands that many Americans and many Armenians believe that the events of the past that I have referred to should be called “genocide.” It has been President Bush’s policy, as well as that of previous presidents of both parties, not to use that term. The President’s focus is on encouraging Turkish citizens to reconcile with their past and with the Armenians. He seeks to support the painstaking progress achieved to date. President Bush believes that the best way to honor the victims is to remember the past, so it is never repeated, and to look to the future to promote understanding and reconciliation between the peoples and governments of Armenia and Turkey. A key part of that effort is to end Armenia’s isolation in the region by encouraging normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey and the opening of their land border. The Armenian government has requested that we facilitate this process. It will not be easy nor will it likely be quick, but there are some hopeful signs,” Ambassador-Designate Yovanovitch said in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 19. 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.