Sen. Biden Delays Senate Foreign Relations Committee Vote On Hoagland Nomination

WASHINGTON–Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE)–the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee–was joined today by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in forcing a month-long delay in the Committee’s vote on the controversial nomination of Richard Hoagland to replace the current US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The controversy within the Foreign Relations Committee over the Hoagland nomination began with Senator Biden’s June 23rd letter asking Secretary of State Rice Condoleezza Rice to respond to a series of questions–including specific inquiries about reports that the current Ambassador had been recalled due to his having "accurately described the Armenian Genocide as genocide." The debate over the merits of the nomination heated up during the June 28 confirmation hearing due to the nominee’s evasive and unresponsive answers to straightforward questions posed by panel members about US policy on the Armenian Genocide. Following the hearing–Ambassador-designate Hoagland–in a sharp departure from established Administration practice–responded to a written Senate inquiry by questioning the genocidal intent of the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide–a denial tactic frequently used by the Turkish government.

As a result of the intervention of Senators Biden and Kerry–Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s nomination will not be considered by the Committee until the Committee’s next business meeting in September.

"The ANCA welcomes the leadership of Senators Biden and Kerry in ensuring that the Foreign Relations Committee has the time to more carefully consider the implications–for both our foreign policy and our values as a nation–of confirming a US Ambassador to Armenia who is on record denying the Armenian Genocide," said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. "We appreciate–as well–the principled efforts of Senators Allen–Boxer–Chafee–Coleman–Dodd–Feingold–Kennedy–Reed–Sarbanes–and others to seek an honest explanation of the firing of Ambassador Evans–to explore the role of the Turkish government in his recall–and to insist that the Administration clearly articulate its stand on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide."

The panel’s decision comes in the wake of a nationwide campaign by the ANCA–in Washington–DC and in grassroots communities across the country–to demand answers concerning the recall of Amb. Evans and to educate Senators about the adverse impact of sending an envoy to Armenia that has called into question the genocidal character of Ottoman Turkey’s systematic destruction of its Armenian population. The ANCA has mobilized thousands of activists to share their views with their Senators and Representatives about the need for an honest explanation of Ambassador Evans’ recall and–more broadly–the exact outlines of the State Department’s policy on the Armenian Genocide.

As early as this February–Members of Congress–at the urging of the ANCA–began pressing the State Department for a full–open–and official explanation of the firing of the current US Ambassador to Armenia–over his truthful comment last year on the Armenian Genocide. Despite a series of Congressional letters and questions posed during Congressional testimony by Secretary of State Rice and other senior officials–the Administration failed to provide a meaningful explanation of its decision to recall Ambassador Evans.

In the shadow of this controversy–Ambassador-designate Hoagland came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 28 for a confirmation hearing–alongside the President’s nominees to represent the US in Ireland and Switzerland. During this hearing–Senators George Allen (R-VA) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) pressed Ambassador-designate Hoagland for answers about US policy on the Armenian Genocide. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) expressed serious reservations concerning the circumstances of the nomination and the Administration’s policy on the Armenian Genocide.

Ambassador-designate Hoagland’s responses during the hearing–and later to written questions submitted by panel members–were largely evasive–characterized by repeated–often strained–efforts to avoid using the term genocide–even while refusing to acknowledge that he had been instructed not to use this term. The following day–on June 29–the panel–and then the full Senate–voted to confirm nominees for the ambassadors to Ireland and Switzerland–but chose to not take any action on Hoagland’s nomination.

In the days that followed his confirmation hearing–Ambassador-designate Hoagland responded to several dozen written questions concerning US policy on the Armenian Genocide–the recall of Ambassador Evans–and the instructions he had received regarding how to address this matter if confirmed by the Senate. Among his written responses to a series of questions posed by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)–was a deeply troubling–morally objectionable and historically inaccurate indication that the Armenian Genocide did not meet the US definition of genocide because of the absence of a "specific intent" on the part of the perpetrator. This denial of the Armenian Genocide–which went far beyond the bounds of the Administration’s traditional policy–prompted the ANCA to announce its formal opposition to Richard Hoagland’s nomination on July 18.

Soon after–the ANCA determined that–according to Department of Justice records–the State Department had misled the US Senate about its communications with the Turkish government concerning the February 2005 public affirmation of the Armenian Genocide by Ambassador Evans. In a letter–dated June 28th–written on behalf of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Senator Biden–the State Department denied that the Turkish government had even approached the Administration on this issue. However–official Foreign Agent Registration Act filings by the Turkish government’s registered foreign agent–the Livingston Group–document that–in the days following Ambassador Evans’ February 19–2005 remarks–one of Turkey’s agents communicated on at least four different occasions with State Department officials concerning the envoy’s statement and his subsequent retraction.

To date–half of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–including Senators George Allen (R-VA)–Joseph Biden (D-DE)–Barbara Boxer (D-CA)–Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)–Norm Coleman (R-MN)–Christopher Dodd (D-CT)–Russell Feingold (D-WI)–John Kerry (D-MA) and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)–have contacted Secretary Rice or questioned Ambassador Designate Hoagland directly regarding the Armenian Genocide. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Jack Reed (D-RI)–along with over sixty members of the House have also expressed serious concerns to the State Department on this matter.

For a comprehensive overview of documen’s regarding the firing of Ambassador Evans and the Hoagland controversy–please visit anca.org

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