Senators Voice Concern at Yovanovitch Hearing

The following are excerpts from Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing discussing the confirmation of Amb. Marie Yovanovitch as the next US Ambassador to Armenia.


Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE): "I want to point out that you–Senator Boxer and Senator Menendez–without your sustained push on this, I don’t think the Administration would have come as far as they have. They have come a long, long, long way since I read that last response, and I wrote to them in response to what I believed to be not clear answers to your questions. And that is a milestone. I promise you that will be reported in Ankara; that will be reported in Armenia… I also want to thank, quite frankly, the American Armenian community. This is a very hard thing for them. […] The maturation of the community is something that is remarkable because this is still not resolved in a way probably all of us want to see resolved." […]
"Recognition by the United States of the Armenian Genocide is not the final goal. The real goal is the recognition of Turkey–of the Turkish Government–of the Armenian Genocide and the establishment of a common Turkish-Armenian understanding of the events and tragedy that took place. […] When Senator Kerry, Hagel and I were in Turkey, we all said in one form or another, ‘Hey look, when are you going to get real on this.’ And it’s clear, they have internal difficulty. They all know what happened and they’re trying to figure out how to deal with this. And the government is under siege from the courts and all these other things going on there. But I think we have to play an affirmative role in moving this along."


Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): "As we work to build our standing in the world, I think there are a few issues on which we should never waiver. I believe we as a country have to be clear on the Armenian Genocide and I believe we have a continuing problem on our hands, particularly as we address the modern day genocide plaguing the Darfur region." […]
"As you know, Mr. Chairman, there is no need for further study or historical research. The facts are clear. Beginning in 1915, more than 1.5 million Armenia’s were marched to their deaths in the desert, murdered in concentration camps, and forced to endure unimaginable acts of brutality at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Since that time, the deliberate massacre of the Armenia’s has been painstakingly documented by untold numbers of scholars, including Nobel Prize recipient Eli Wiesel who published a petition in the New York Times with other Holocaust scholars affirming "the incontestable fact of the Armenian Genocide" […]
"I appreciate that Ambassador Yovanovitch has clarified that by proposing to bring Turkish and Armenia’s scholars to the United States, the State Department is not seeking to ‘open a debate on whether the Ottomans committed these horrendous acts,’ but that it is seeking to ‘help preserve the documentation that supports the truth of those events.’ There is so much running away from using the word genocide–it’s unbelievable."


Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): "My concern, Mr. Chairman, has to do with the oath that the Ambassador takes–and I have a copy here. It says ‘I do solemnly swear to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…’ It doesn’t say ‘I take an oath to the President of the United States…’ It says ‘I take an oath to the Constitution of the United States.’ That Constitution includes this body. If we cannot have a nominee [of whom we can ask] what is their opinion, when called before this Committee, about the facts on the ground, a set of circumstances, then we are undermining the very essence of our ability to deduce and obtain what are the facts so that we can ultimately pursue the right policy."
"I said at the time that it is a ridiculous game that this Administration asks our Ambassadors to play over the use of the word ‘genocide.’ And I was concerned about some of the responses that Amb. Yovanovitch wrote to some of our written questions, which suggest that some Armenian Americans and some Americans suggest that the facts that took place at that period of time were genocide. That would suggest that others may not believe it so. The problem with that is that every credible objective historian, not just Armenian historians–but a broad range of historians including the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the Institute of Holocaust and Genocide, the Institute of the Study of Genocide, all recognize the facts of that period of time as ‘genocide.’ And so it is indeed amazing to me, Mr. Chairman, that our Ambassador to Armenia, every April, attended the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide–commemoration of an event that the Administration doesn’t even officially recognize."


Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD): "I agree with Senator Menendez and Senator Boxer that the Administration’s position on this, is not helping Turkey and it is not helping the US. Turkey would do best [inaudible] what happened and it is important that we use the right term of genocide […] I think it is important for Armenia to have a confirmed Ambassador. I think it is in our interest to have an Ambassador–particularly one who is experienced, who is a career diplomat–who could help in regard to these matters."

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