WASHINGTON–DC (LA Daily News)–Members of California’s congressional delegation are asking for an explanation of reports that the US ambassador to Armenia is being recalled for openly acknowledging the Armenian genocide.
In separate letters to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice–Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) and Grace Napolitano (D-Santa Fe Springs) demanded answers about Ambassador John Marshall Evans’ status. Both strongly opposed recalling him.
Schiff said he reiterated that message last week in a meeting with State Department officials.
"I expressed my opposition to any disciplinary action being taken against the ambassador for speaking the truth," Schiff said. "I made it very clear I thought any action taken against him would merely compound the erroneous policy of the administration."
A State Department spokesman insisted that Evans has not submitted his resignation nor been told to return to the US. However–there have been continuing reports about his recall.
"It’s very concerning and very upsetting," said Zanku Armenian–a member of the Armenian National Committee’s board in Glendale.
"The word that we have is pretty clear that this is in the works," Armenian said about Evans’ recall. "It’s clear that the State Department is bowing to pressure from Turkey."
Evans was praised in Armenian-American communities last year when he unequivocally referred to the massacre of 1.5 million Armenia’s in post-World War I Ottoman Turkey as a genocide.
"I think it is unbecoming of us as Americans to play word games here," Evans said in February 2005 during a stop at the University of California at Berkeley. "I will today call it the Armenian genocide."
In doing so–Evans became the first US administration official to use the word genocide. The Bush administration–like its predecessors–refers to the killings as a massacre and a tragedy–but never genocide.
"It felt like a breakthrough moment," Armenian said. "It felt like we were getting somewhere."
Turkey–a key US and NATO ally–strongly opposes the genocide label.
Tuluy Tanc–minister counsel at the Turkish embassy in Washington–DC–called Evans’ commen’s "personal views" and not a reflection of US policy. He said he did not have any knowledge about Evans being recalled.
But Aram Hamparian–executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America–said the State Department is already quietly vetting a new ambassador to replace Evans in late spring or early summer.
"I think it’s pretty clear he’s being ushered out the door," Schiff said.
Evans–for his part–has sidestepped questions about his tenure in Armenia. In response to a query during a press conference last week–he replied–"I serve at the pleasure of the president. Period."