Yovanovitch Attempts to Differentiate US Policy From Turkey’s Genocide Denial

WASHINGTON–US Ambassador Designate to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch, in the last of her eights sets of written responses to questions from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, attempted to distance U.S. policy from Turkey’s outright denial of the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In response to a series of questions posed by panel member Russell Feingold (D-WI) regarding the difference between the U.S. and Turkish government’s policies on recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the nominee stated that: "In contrast to the Turkish government’s policy, the US Government acknowledges and mourns as historical fact the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations that devastated over one and a half million Armenia’s at the end of the Ottoman Empire." The full text of the questions and responses are provided below.

"We remain disappointed that Ambassador Designate Yovanovitch provided evasive answers and non-responses in reply to Senator Feingold’s clearly articulated questions. We are troubled by her assertion that it is somehow an appropriate ‘prerogative’ of the President-in complete disregard of the facts and counter to our nation’s common morality–to allow a foreign country to impose a gag rule on America’s defense of human rights," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We do, at the same time, note that the nominee makes at least a token effort to distance U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide–as profoundly flawed as it is–from the Turkish government’s position of outright denial."

Ambassador Yovanovitch appeared as a witness before the Committee on June 19. During this appearance, she faced a series of pointed questions from Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) regarding the Bush Administration’s policy to mischaracterize the Armenian Genocide. Afterward eight Senators submitted a series of written inquiries to the nominee. Concerned that Senators had not been given enough time to review Ms. Yovanovitch’s responses, with many submitted less than 24 hours before the impending Committee vote, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called for a delay in Senate consideration, until Senators had a clearer picture of the nominee’s position. A Committee decision on this posting is expected in mid-July.

President Bush nominated Amb. Marie L. Yovanovitch in March of this year to serve as America’s next Ambassador to Armenia. The ANCA has spoken to Committee members about the value of carefully questioning Amb. Yovanovitch on the many issues she will 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.

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 statemen’s 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.

Questions for the Record Submitted to Ambassador-Designate Marie L. Yovanovitch by Senator Russell Feingold

Question:
What conditions must be met for the Administration to finally recognize the slaughter of over 1.5 million Armenia’s during WWI by the Ottoman Empire as "genocide"? Specifically, if the Republic of Turkey recognized the genocide, would the United States then recognize it also? Additionally, how is the President’s policy on recognizing the Armenian Genocide different from the Turkish government’s policy?

Answer:
In contrast to the Turkish government’s policy, the U.S. Government acknowledges and mourns as historical fact the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations that devastated over one and a half million Armenia’s 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 Armenia’s refer to it. That is why every April the President honors the victims and expresses American solidarity with the Armenian people on Remembrance Day. It is the prerogative of the President to set the policy on how the Administration characterizes these historical events.

We have strongly encouraged Turkey to come to terms with its past.
That will not be easy, just as it has not been easy for the United States to come to terms with dark periods of our own past.

Question:
Should you be confirmed, how will you work to promote Armenian-Turkish reconciliation in a direction that would lead to full recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey and the United States? Additionally, how would you support efforts to promote overall reconciliation and improved relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Answer:
If confirmed, I will continue this Administration’s efforts to promote Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and normalization of relations. Specifically, I will continue, working with our Embassy in Ankara, Administration efforts to encourage Turkey to open its land border, reinstitute transportation, communication, and utility links between the two countries, and re-establish diplomatic relations. Contact begins to build trust, and trust is the necessary first step to reconciliation, facilitating Turkey’s ability and willingness to examine the dark spots in its own history.

The Administration, through our Embassy in Ankara, also will be pressing for expanded freedom of expression in Turkey, helping to expand the public debate surrounding the events of 1915 that led to the amendment of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, under which individuals have been prosecuted for "insulting Turkishness." We welcome this progress, though clearly there is more to be done. The Administration will continue to encourage the Turkish authorities to end legal action against citizens for expressing their views.

As a Minsk Group Co-Chair nation, we believe the single most important step toward bolstering peace and prosperity in Armenia as well as Azerbaijan would be a peaceful, just, and lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. During the past two years, the parties have moved closer than ever to a framework agreement based on the Basic Principles that have been the subject of intensive negotiations, thanks in large part to the active mediation of the United States as a Co-Chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs remain fully committed to helping Armenia and Azerbaijan finalize these Basic Principles, and hope to build momentum in the coming months after an introductory meeting between Presidents Sargsyan and Aliyev in St. Petersburg on June 6. If I am confirmed, I would uphold our commitment to support the efforts of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to sustain the negotiations and narrow the differences between the sides to promote the soonest possible endorsement of the Basic Principles, so the parties can proceed on this basis with drafting a peace agreement.

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