ANCA: Senators Force Bush Admin Retreat from Turkey Genocide Denial

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July 29, 2008
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918
Email: [email protected]


— Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Ambassador Nominee
to Armenia After Last Minute State Department Clarification

"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."
— Matthew Reynolds, Acting Assistant Secretary of State

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

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 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.

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.’


United States Department of State
Washington DC, 20520

July 29, 2008

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing in response to your concerns regarding responses to
questions for the record submitted by you Senator Menendez
regarding the nomination of Marie Yovanovitch as Ambassador to

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.


Matthew A. Reynolds
Acting Assistant Secretary
Legislative Affairs

The Honorable
Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Chairman,
Committee on Foreign Relations,
United States Senate