Saturday, August 2, 2008

U.S. to name new ambassadorial nominee for Armenia

This was first published in the March 29, 2008 Armenian Reporter

United States set to name a new ambassador to Armenia
Career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch said to be the nominee
by Emil Sanamyan

– The United States has requested the Armenian government’s approval for the nomination of a new ambassador, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan confirmed on March 25.

The day before, the California Courier reported that the nominee is the current U.S. ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic Marie Louise Yovanovitch. The Armenian Reporter’s sources in the Armenian government confirmed the report, adding that Armenia has already given an oral agreement to the nomination and that official diplomatic approval, known as agrĂ©ment, is in the works.

The name of the nominee is expected to be officially released by the White House following the formal consent of the Armenian government, in line with diplomatic protocol.

The position of the U.S. ambassador to Armenia has been vacant since the controversial recall of Ambassador John Evans in September 2006. The recall came following Ambassador Evans’ public references to the Armenian Genocide as a genocide, and the resulting protests from Turkey; Mr. Evans retired from the State Department at the end of 2006.

Nominated to replace Mr. Evans, Ambassador Richard Hoagland during his nomination hearings questioned the applicability of the term genocide to the Armenian experience. He failed to gain the approval of the U.S. Senate. His candidacy was withdrawn last year and he has since become U.S. chargĂ© d’affaires in Turkmenistan.

After the anticipated nomination by the White House, Ms. Yovanovitch’s candidacy would be subject to the approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then the full Senate.

A veteran diplomat

Ms. Yovanovitch is a 22-year veteran of the Foreign Service currently concluding her third year at the helm of the U.S. Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic. Her service in the Kyrgyz Republic began shortly after the overthrow of President Askar Akayev in March 2005 and has been marked by tensions over the current President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s policies, particularly with regard to the status of the U.S. air base in the country.

Prior to her current appointment, from August 2004 to May 2005 Ms. Yovanovitch was senior advisor to the then Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and, briefly, his March 2005 replacement Nick Burns.

From August 2001 to June 2004, Ms. Yovanovitch was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, working with the then U.S. ambassador Carlos Pasqual and his September 2003 replacement John Herbst.

Her term in Kiev coincided with souring of U.S. relations with the then President Leonid Kuchma, particularly over 2002 allegations of Ukrainian sale of air defense systems to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

From May 1998 to May 2000, Ms. Yovanovitch was deputy director of the State Department’s Russia Desk and her previous postings were with U.S. Embassies in Canada, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Somalia.

Ms. Yovanovitch earned a bachelor’s degree in history and Russian studies from Princeton University in 1980 and a master’s degree from the National War College in 2001. Born in Canada to parents of Serbian and Russian descent, she grew up in Connecticut and is fluent in Russian and French.

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