WASHINGTON—Senators Robert Menendez and Ed Markey submitted questions regarding the United State foreign policy vis-à-vis Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to Rex Tillerson, President Donald J. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State and Nikki Haley, his nominee for US Ambassador to the United Nations, during their confirmation hearings.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Tillerson’s nomination on January 23, paving the way for a full-senate confirmation and Haley was confirmed to her post on by the senate on Janurary 24.
Tillerson on Artsakh
Responding to a question from Markey regarding the stability in the Caucasus through peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well the holding Azerbaijan accountable for cease fire violations, Tillerson advocated for a peaceful resolution to the Artsakh conflict.
“If confirmed, I will work with the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a peaceful, long-term solution that allows for stability and prosperity in the region. The first step in this process must be to build trust by ensuring that all agreements between the parties are respected,” said Tillerson, calling the “frozen” Nagorno-Karabakh conflict “a threat to stability in the region and U.S. national security interests.
Armenian Genocide Recognition, Relations with Turkey
On a question regarding US recognition of the Armenian Genocide and holding Turkey accountable for pursuing its current policy, Tillerson responded to Menendez (D-NJ) and Markey (D-Mass.) by saying, “The tragic atrocities of 1915 remain a painful issue in the relationship between Armenia and Turkey, and it is in the U.S. interest to ensure peaceful and stable relations between the two countries. If confirmed, I will support a full accounting of the historical events and an open dialogue between Armenia and Turkey in the interest of regional stability.”
Haley responded to Menendez’s inquiry about supporting a U.S. declaration calling the Armenian Genocide as such and whether “the failure to do so hereto speaks ill of our values and encourages the continuation of such crimes.”
“I will never shy away from calling out other countries for actions taken in conflict with U.S. values and in violation of human rights and international norms,” said Haley.
To Markey’s question about US efforts to urge Turkey to end the 20-plus-year blockade of Armenia, Tillerson said: “I will support the normalized diplomatic, economic, and civil society relations, between Armenia and Turkey in my ongoing discussions with the two parties. U.S. leadership and re-engagement in the region at large will help build the necessary trust to improve relations between Armenia and Turkey.”
Tillerson also touched on protection of religious minorities in Turkey, saying he would “ensure protection of religious minorities and their property rights, including the Armenian community in Turkey,” in response to question from Markey.
In response to a similar question from Menendez, Tillerson said he is “very concerned about many of the measures recently taken by the Turkish government.”
“Religious freedom is a core American principle and an important aspect of international peace and stability. If confirmed, I will work with Turkey to safeguard religious minorities and promote respect for their cultural heritages, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki Seminary,” added Tillerson.
US Armenia Relations
In response to questions from Markey, Tillerson discussed US-Armenia trade and the challenges facing Armenia due to the influx of refugees from Syria.
“It is in the interest of the United States to promote mutually beneficial trade between the United States and Armenia. If confirmed, I will work closely with the U.S. Trade Representative and other relevant parts of the U.S. government to explore the possibilities to expand trade and investment between the United States and Armenia in a way that creates U.S. jobs and economic growth,” said Tillerson.
“I recognize the tremendous challenges facing Armenia due to the influx of refugees. If confirmed, I will work with our European partners to to ensure cost-effective assistance to Armenia as part of a broader strategy for handling the Syrian refugee issue and protecting U.S. national security interests,” added Tillerson.