Menendez Calls For Delay In Consideration of Heffern Nomination

Sen. Menendez during the July 13 hearing

WASHINGTON—The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the request of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tuesday deferred consideration of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia nominee John Heffern until its next business meeting, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The panel’s Chairman, John Kerry (D-MA), announced at today’s business meeting that the Heffern nomination had been “carried over,” a move typically used by Senators to allow additional time to review a nominee’s credentials and testimony. 

“We would like to thank Senator Menendez for affording his colleagues greater time to scrutinize and make an informed determination,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

“As a matter of policy, we remain deeply troubled that the Administration’s complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide so manifestly fails to meet the clear-cut moral standard set by President Obama during his tenure on this very Senate panel. The painful spectacle of watching a senior U.S. diplomat forced to dance and dodge around the plain truth – in the service of a patently immoral policy imposed upon America by a foreign government – undermines U.S. interests, and compromises American values,” he added.

During Heffern’s July 13 confirmation hearing, Sen. Menendez pressed him regarding the Obama Administration position regarding the Armenian Genocide, and also about his own understanding of this crime.  The nominee cited the killing of over 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire, but stopped short of properly referencing these acts as “genocide,” arguing that “the characterization of those events is a policy decision that is made by the President of the United States.  He added that this policy is enunciated in the President’s April 24Remembrance Day statement.”

Senator Menendez remarked, “This is an inartful dance that we do. We have a State Department whose history is full of dispatches that cite the atrocities committed during this time. We have a convention that we signed on to as a signatory that clearly defines these acts as genocide.  We have a historical knowledge of the facts that we accept would amount to genocide. But we are unwilling to reference it as genocide. And if we cannot accept the past, we cannot move forward.  And so I find it very difficult to send diplomats of the United States to a country in which they will go – and I hope you will go, as some of your predecessors have – to a genocide commemoration and yet never be able to use the word genocide.  It is much more than a question of a word. It is everything that signifies our commitment to saying ‘never again.’ And yet, we can’t even acknowledge this fact and we put diplomats in a position that is totally untenable.”

Sen. Menendez was echoing a 2008 statement by then Senator Barack Obama, who, in questioning U.S. Ambassador to Armenia nominee Marie Yovanovitch, expressed concern about the Bush Administration’s position on the issue.  Then Senator Obama stated:

“Nearly 2 million Armenians were deported during the Armenian Genocide, which was carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and approximately 1.5 million of those deported were killed. It is imperative that we recognize the horrific acts carried out against the Armenian people as genocide.  The occurrence of the Armenian genocide is a widely documented fact, supported by an overwhelming collection of historical evidence.  I was deeply disturbed two years ago when the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia was fired after he used the term ‘genocide’ to describe the mass slaughter of Armenians.  I called for Secretary Rice to examine what I believe is an untenable position taken by the U.S. government.”

The complete questions submitted by Senator Obama and responses from Ambassadorial nominee Marie Yovanovitch in 2008 are posted on the ANCA Web site.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined Senator Menendez in submitting written questions to Heffern following his confirmation hearing.


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  1. Hermine said:

    It might be better if our friends in Congress advocated for US recognition of Artsakh.

  2. Onnik K. said:

    Armenia should exclude from its territory any diplomat or public figure who publicly denies or undermines the truth of the Armenian Genocide; Heffern represents such a case, and thus should be rejected to set foot on Armenian territory by the Armenian authorities.

  3. manooshag said:

    I would say that if Heffern has problems recognizing that the Turkeys committed the first Genocide of the 20th century against the Christian Armenian nation…. his stance, then, against recognizing the moral issue of eliminating ALL Genocides against ALL humanity may well be another problem – of his.

  4. Edward Demian said:

    As much as I would like to see Artzach independent, I would prefer to see Artsach and Armenia reunited. Then we can concentrate on re uniting Armenian territories in Georgia with Armenia. After that, we will need to resolve the issues with Abhazia where the Armenian population is the majority. International law is clear. The majority of the population determines the course of the nation. After that, we need to prosethalize, and set up pre-schools and Armenian cultural centers in the Hamshen region of present day Turkey. After that we need to set up boarding schools in Armenia to cater to Kurdified Armenians(Muslim or Christian). We have a very long road to travel. For a people that just won the world Chess championship, we sure are indolent about our responsibility. No money you say? Look at what the Jews are doing. Every late night, there are programs on TV seeking money from the American audience to finance Jewish immigration from Russia to Israel. Armenian retirees could easily be induced to settle in Armenia, bringing with them Social Security benefits and their own financial resources. That money, about a thousand dollars a month is far more than the average Armenian per capita earnings. Think about it.