YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans issued on Monday an ambiguous explanation for his public description of the 1915 mass killings of Armenia’s in Ottoman Turkey as genocide–saying that it was an "inappropriate" expression of his personal opinion.
Evans again referred to the Armenian genocide as a fact–but regretted "misunderstandings" caused by his remarks.
"Misunderstandings may have arisen as a result of commen’s made by me during recent informal meetings with Armenian-American groups in the United States regarding the characterization of the Armenian tragedy in Ottoman Turkey and the future status of Nagorno Karabagh," he said in a statement.
"Although I told my audiences that the United States policy on the Armenian Genocide has not changed–I used the term "genocide" speaking in what I characterized as my personal capacity. This was inappropriate," he added.
Evans became the first US government official since former President Ronald Reagan to publicly refer to the 1915-1918 slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire as "genocide" at a series of meetings with American Armenia’s in February.
"The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century. I pledge to you–we are going to do a better job at addressing this issue," the envoy declared at one of those meetings.
Evans was equally vague on his reported remark that Mountainous Karabagh’s return under Azeri rule would have "disastrous" consequences."The U.S. government supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and holds that the future status of Nagorno-Karabagh is a matter of negotiation between Armenia and Azerbaijan," he said in Monday’s statement.
"Everybody realizes that Karabagh can’t be given back to Azerbaijan," Evans said in a February 19 speech in Berkeley–California–according to the local chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America.
Azerbaijan was quick to condemn the remark. According to the official AzerTaj news agency–Baku’s ambassador in Washington–Hafiz Pashaev–demanded an explanation from top State Department officials and was assured by them that Evans had voiced his personal views.
"It seems that the atmosphere of the two-week meetings in different states with the Armenian Diaspora influenced Ambassador Evans to such an extent that he didn’t adhere to a basic principle of diplomacy," Pashaev was quoted as saying.