Monday, June 23, 2008

Hoagland's nomination removed

Bush withdraws nominee for ambassador to Armenia

This was originally published in August 11, 2007 Armenian Reporter

by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – President Bush on August 3 withdrew the nomination of Richard E. Hoagland to be U.S. ambassador to Armenia. The decision was a victory for the Armenian-American lobby, which had opposed the nomination, and for its supporters in the Senate.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) placed a hold on the nomination last year, blocking Senate confirmation. After the president resubmitted the nomination to the new Congress in January, Mr. Menendez placed a hold again. Mr. Hoagland was nominated last summer to replace Ambassador John M. Evans, who was forced to leave his post and retire from the Foreign Service over public remarks he made affirming the Armenian Genocide; the remarks reportedly angered Turkey.

[This newspaper had called on Senators to use the confirmation hearing for Mr. Evans’ successor to urge the State Department to explain the circumstances of Mr. Evans’ early recall and to pressure the White House to end its policy of not calling the genocide by its name.]

During the confirmation hearings, Mr. Hoagland went beyond the administration’s usual policy of acknowledging the events of 1915–17 in Asia Minor but withholding judgment on whether they constituted genocide. He tried to make a case that it was not genocide, thus galvanizing the bipartisan opposition of members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to his nomination.

Only after the State Department formally revised the nominee’s remarks did the committee agree to send his nomination to the full Senate. There, however, action was blocked by Mr. Menendez. Several other senators, including the majority leader, have spoken against the nomination.

Mr. Menendez told The Associated Press that the Bush administration did a disservice to the Armenian people and Armenian-Americans when it removed Mr. Evans “simply because he recognized the Armenian genocide.

“It was clear that their nominee to fill his place was controversial,” the senator said. “I hope that our next nominee will bring a different understanding to this issue and foster a productive relationship with our friends in Armenia.”

“We are gratified to see that the administration has finally come to recognize that Dick Hoagland – through his own words and action – disqualified himself as an effective representative of either American values or U.S. interests as U.S. ambassador to
Armenia,” stated Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“This is a correct, although a long overdue move,” said Ross Vartian of the U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC). “We trust that the administration will take into account the Hoagland nomination process, when a new candidacy is offered for the position of ambassador to Armenia.”

Both the ANCA and USAPAC fought the nomination of Mr. Hoagland, while another advocacy group – the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) – did not oppose the nomination.

In a statement released last January, the Assembly argued that “it is vitally important that the United States send an ambassador to Armenia” and that “some of the opposition
[to Amb. Hoagland’s nomination] is based on inappropriate grounds.”

Reacting to the withdrawal of the nomination, the Assembly issued this conditional statement: “Should this withdrawal indicate that the next nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia shall properly acknowledge and characterize the Armenian Genocide, then this is a positive development.”

The withdrawal opens the way for a new ambassadorial candidate to be nominated to the Senate. Rudy Perina, a retired ambassador, is on a temporary assignment as chargĂ© d’affaires, directing the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.

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