ANCA: State Dept. Again Evades Questions about Amb. Evans’ Recall

Armenian National Committee of America
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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2006
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918

STATE DEPARTMENT AGAIN REFUSES TO DIRECTLY
COMMENT ON REPORTS OF AMB. EVANS’ RECALL

— Spokesperson Continues to Evade Journalists’ Questions;
Issues Non-Responsive Answer to Repeated Inquiries

WASHINGTON, DC – For the fourth time in the last week, the State
Department’s official spokesperson has failed to directly respond
to questions raised by journalists during the Department’s daily
press briefing about reports that the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia,
John Marshall Evans, has been recalled due to his truthful
statements on the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National
Committee of America (ANCA).

“It’s certainly disappointing seeing State Department officials
hiding behind their spokesperson to avoid directly answering
questions about whether Ambassador Evans is being recalled because
he had the courage to stand up against what effectively amounts to
a ‘gag-rule’ preventing our nation’s diplomats from speaking
truthfully about the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive
Director Aram Hamparian.

ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, in a March 8th letter to Secretary
Rice, wrote that, “If, in fact, the State Department has taken
punitive steps against Ambassador Evans, you should fully and
openly explain your policies and actions to the American people.
If, on the other hand, the Department has not taken any such steps,
you owe it to the American people to affirm that it is not the
policy of the United States of America to punish its diplomats for
speaking the truth about the Armenian Genocide.”

Questions concerning Ambassador Evans were raised on March 8th and
March 10th and again on March 13th and 14th. Each time journalists
asked for official comments about Ambassador Evans’ reported
recall. Reflecting the growing frustration among journalists over
the lack of a clear response to their inquiries, a member of the
State Department press corps publicly described the answers
provided by the official spokesperson as “a bit of a dodge.”

The growing controversy surrounding reports of Amb. Evans’ recall
has resulted in separate letters being sent to Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice from ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Rep. Frank
Pallone (D-NJ), the Co-Chairman of the Armenian Issues Caucus, as
well as formal Congressional inquiries by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
and Grace Napolitano (D-CA).

Speaking last year to an Armenian American gathering at the
University of California at Berkeley, Amb. Evans said, “I will
today call it the Armenian Genocide. . . I informed myself in depth
about it. I think we, the U.S. government, owe you, our fellow
citizens, a more frank and honest way of discussing this problem.
Today, as someone who has studied it~E there’s no doubt in my mind
[as to] what happened . . . I think it is unbecoming of us, as
Americans, to play word games here. I believe in calling things by
their name.” Referring to the Armenian Genocide as “the first
genocide of the 20th century,” he said: “I pledge to you, we are
going to do a better job at addressing this issue.” Amb. Evans also
disclosed that he had consulted with a legal advisor at the State
Department who had confirmed that the events of 1915 were “genocide
by definition.”

Within days after his remarks and the conclusion of a speaking tour
of Armenian American communities, Ambassador Evans was apparently
forced to issue a statement clarifying that his references to the
Armenian Genocide were his personal views and did not represent a
change in U.S. policy. He subsequently issued a correction to this
statement, replacing a reference to the Genocide with the word
“tragedy.”

Later last year, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA),
in recognition of his honesty and commitment to principle, decided
to honor Ambassador Evans with the “Christian A. Herter Award,”
recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the
Foreign Service. AFSA states, “The purpose of the [award] is to
encourage Foreign Service career employees to speak out frankly and
honestly.” Sadly, as Washington Post staff writer Glenn Kessler
revealed on June 9th, AFSA withdrew its award following pressure
from “very serious people from the State Department” just days
before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to
Washington, D.C. to meet with President George W. Bush.

The full text of the four exchanges are provided below:

#####

1) MARCH 8, 2006 ~V DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (WASHINGTON, DC)
SEAN MCCORMACK, SPOKESMAN

QUESTION: [. . .] Why did you recall your Ambassador to Armenia,
Mr. John Evans? Are you going to replace him?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware that we have recalled anybody — our
Ambassador to Armenia.

QUESTION: Not in Germany, in Armenia.

MR. MCCORMACK: What’s that? I’m not aware that – I believe that
he’s still serving as Ambassador in Armenia.

2) MARCH 10, 2006 ~V DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (WASHINGTON, DC)
TOM CASEY, ACTING SPOKESMAN

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia having his time there
cut short, maybe his career? A couple of Congressmen have asked
Secretary Rice about it and apparently have not gotten an answer.
He’s supposed to have suggested that Armenians were the victims of
genocide, which doesn’t happen to be Bush Administration policy.

MR. CASEY: I think Sean addressed this a couple of days ago.

QUESTION: I think it’s been brought up — further up to date. If
you could —

MR. CASEY: I don’t have anything beyond what he said on it. I’ll
look into it for you and see if there’s any changes in —

QUESTION: He said that ambassadors serve at the privilege of the
President

MR. CASEY: Yeah. And as far as I know, he’s . . . still ambassador.
I’m not aware that anything’s changed that situation.

QUESTION: You can’t — well, all right, if you don’t have anything
further. (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: I think, Barry, I will — yeah, I’ll look into it for
you. I haven’t gotten an update on it, but I’ll try and see if
there’s something and we’ll post an answer for you.

QUESTION: And also if somebody ghosted an answer from the Secretary
to Mr. Schiff and the other Congressmen.

MR. CASEY: Okay. I’ll let you know. Let’s go back here. Oh, to you
guys first and then we’ll come over to this side.

3) MARCH 13, 2006 ~V DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (WASHINGTON, DC)
TOM CASEY, ACTING SPOKESMAN

QUESTION: Is the Ambassador of Armenia being — having his career
shortened because he spoke out against genocide in Armenia?

MR. CASEY: Barry, I know we promised you an answer on that one on
Friday. Still don’t have it and I’ll get something for you this
afternoon.

QUESTION: You mean his future hasn’t been decided yet?

MR. CASEY: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: I think it has.

MR. CASEY: I believe you think it does.

QUESTION: No, I do believe it does and so do — and I have reason
to believe it does and I know there are at least two members of
Congress who believe it does. No, I just think the State Department
is having difficulty finding words to announce his premature
retirement.

MR. CASEY: No. We owe you an answer on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: I’ll get it for you. Yes, Saul.

[. . .]

QUESTION: And one on Armenia. Representative Frank Pallone in a
strong statement expressed his extreme disappointment with regards
of the Department of State decision to rid finally Ambassador John
Evans from Armenia as a retaliation for statements he made in
recognition of the Armenian genocide in Los Angeles by Ottoman
Turks. And it was reported that already you have decided to replace
him. Could you please clarify for us what is going on exactly this
particular moment of this issue?

MR. CASEY: That was the question Barry asked. We owe you an answer
and we’ll get you one.

QUESTION: Is the same answer.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. It’s the same issue; it will be the same answer.

QUESTION: Is there an ambassador on post in Armenia right now?

MR. CASEY: Yes, there is.

QUESTION: Is his name Evans?

MR. CASEY: Yes, it is.

QUESTION: Does he have suitcase packed?

MR. CASEY: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: But when you do announce this, would you kindly tell us
the difference between what happened and genocide?

MR. CASEY: I think —

QUESTION: Because U.S. policy is there was no genocide.

MR. CASEY: Our policy on this issue is well known. It was reported
in a presidential statement and, yeah, I don’t have anything to add
to it.

4) MARCH 14, 2006 ~V DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (WASHINGTON, DC)
ADAM ERELI, SPOKESMAN

QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, on the DOS [Department of State] Web site,
regarding yesterday’s taken question about U.S. Ambassador to
Armenia John Evans’ status, you have put quote, “genocide,”
unquote, in quotes. I’m wondering why, if you can say so.

MR. ERELI: I think because it was referring to remarks that
somebody made.

QUESTION: Do you know whether John Evans was recalled or whether
he’s been recalled due to his speech on Armenian genocide?

MR. ERELI: I think the question was answered in the – that was
answered in the question posted.

QUESTION: Should DOS [Department of State] employees have been
advised not to use the term, quote, “genocide,” unquote, when
discussing the extermination of the (inaudible)?

MR. ERELI: No, I think our guidance on that is the same. And we
posted that guidance last week.

QUESTION: Is it not true that Mr. Evans’ 35-year diplomatic career
will be shortened because of the remarks he made, saying that …
… genocide?

MR. ERELI: I think the question was answered in the – that was
answered in the question posted.

QUESTION: Had DOS [Department of State] employees been advised not
to use the term, quote, “genocide,” unquote, when discussing the
extermination of the 1 ~V1/2 million . . .

MR. ERELI: No, I think our guidance on that is the same. And we
posted that guidance last week.

QUESTION: Is it not true that Mr. Evans’ 35-year diplomatic career
will be shortened because of the remarks he made, saying that
Armenians were the victims of genocide, since the U.S. government
or the State Department doesn’t believe what happened was genocide?
It doesn’t fit the definition of genocide?

MR. ERELI: I really don’t have anything more to add to what we
posted.

QUESTION: Well, what you posted yesterday was a bit of a dodge.

MR. ERELI: No. I think it’s the situation as it is. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: There is very strong reason to believe, in Congress and
elsewhere, that this man is going to lose out; he’s going to be
brought home early because of what he said.

MR. ERELI: Look, I’d like to be able to — Ambassador Evans is our
ambassador and he continues to exercise that honor and privilege.
And he takes it seriously; we take it seriously. And I really don’t
have any more to add to that.

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