YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Marie L. Yovanovitch, the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Armenia, arrived in Yerevan on Wednesday night and is due to assume her official duties after receiving credentials, the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section reported.
Yovanovitch, a career US diplomat, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Ambassador to Armenia on August 1. Prior to her new appointment, Yovanovitch was U.S. Ambassador to another former Soviet republic, Kyrgyzstan, from 2005 to 2008.
The Senate approved the Yovanovitch nomination, last month, following extensive questioning led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and several requests for clarification of the State Department’s position on the Armenian Genocide.
Facing strong pressure and the prospect of a Senate "hold," Matthew Reynolds, Acting Assistant 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 Armenia’s were conducted by the Ottoman Empire."
Commenting on the State Department’s letter, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian had noted that "although clearly falling short of America’s moral responsibility and national interest in recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, [the letter] did mark a step in the direction of distancing U.S. policy from the dictates of the Turkish government. 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 population."
Following Senate approval of Amb. Yovanovitch’s nomination, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, Executive Director Aram Hamparian, and Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian met with Amb. Yovanovitch at the ANCA national headquarters in Washington, DC to discuss a broad range of U.S.-Armenia policy concerns.
President Bush’s previous nominee as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard Hoagland, was subject to two legislative holds by Sen. Robert Menendez and was ultimately withdrawn by the Administration, following the nominee’s statemen’s denying the Armenian Genocide.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.
The last US Ambassador in Armenia, John Evans, was dismissed from his post in Yerevan for publicly recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Since his recall, duties of the U.S. ambassador in Armenia have been performed by charge d’affaires Joseph Pennington.
Ambassador Yovanovitch is a graduate of Princeton University where she earned a BA in History and Russian Studies (1980). She has studied at the Pushkin Institute (1980) and received an MS from the National War College (2001).
Prior to serving in the Kyrgyz Republic, she was the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2004 to May 2005. From August 2001 to June 2004, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine. From May 1998 to May 2000, she served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Russian Affairs. Her previous overseas assignmen’s include Ottawa, Moscow, London, and Mogadishu. She joined the Foreign Service in 1986.