Friday, September 5, 2008

Briefly: Senate to consider Ambassadors for Armenia, Turkey; U.S.' 1951 doc. on Armenian Genocide

First published in June 14, 2008 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Senate Committee to consider nominee for Ambassador to Armenia…

The Bush Administration’s nominee for the next U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, will meet members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a formal hearing on June 19. The committee’s approval and that of the full Senate is necessary for ambassadorial appointments.

The post of the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia has remained vacant since the controversial recall in September 1996 of Ambassador John Evans after his remarks on the Armenian Genocide angered the Turkish government. The recall, in turn, angered the Armenian community.

Nominated to replace Mr. Evans in 2006, Ambassador Richard Hoagland found his candidacy blocked by Sen. John Menendez (D.-N.J.) following Mr. Hoagland’s remarks in the process of his nomination hearings questioning the veracity of the Genocide.

In a congressional commemoration on April 24, Sen. Menendez promised to “ask the same questions of the new nominee and would not hesitate to place a hold” on her candidacy if he was dissatisfied with her responses.

The new nomination comes at a difficult period in U.S.-Armenian relations stemming from U.S. criticism of the Armenian government’s handling of the February 2008 election and its aftermath.

Senior Armenian officials have said that they would like to see the new U.S. ambassador approved as soon as possible. In a commentary published in the Armenian Reporter on May 24, 2008, Armenia’s ambassador to the United States, Tatoul Markarian, reiterated the “hope that the nominee will be confirmed successfully and arrive in Armenia shortly.”

The nominee is a 22-year veteran of the Foreign Service who just concluded a three year assignment as U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. Ms. Yovanovitch’s service 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 that appointment, from August 2004 to May 2005 Ms. Yovanovitch was senior advisor to the then–Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.

From August 2001 to June 2004, Ms. Yovanovitch was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. Her term there coincided with souring of U.S. relations with the then–President Leonid Kuchma, particularly over allegations of Ukrainian arms sales to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

From May 1998 to May 2000, Ms. Yovanovitch was deputy director of the State Department’s Russia Desk and had been posted with embassies in Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, and Somalia.

Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in history and Russian studies from Princeton University in 1980 and a master’s 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.

…and to Turkey

On June 5, President Bush nominated one his aides for national security affairs, James Jeffrey, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey. The Turkish Daily News first reported the intention to nominate Mr. Jeffrey last November.

A former Army officer and diplomat, Mr. Jeffrey is fluent in Turkish, having served in the country on three occasions in the past. He was deputy chief of mission at the Embassy in Turkey between 1999 and 2002 under ambassadors Mark Parris and Robert Pearson; and previously served at the Embassy in Ankara between 1985 and 1987 and earlier at the U.S. Consulate in Adana.

Before becoming President Bush’s assistant and deputy national security advisor last August, Mr. Jeffrey was a principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the Near East, heading the Iran Policy Team since 2006. From 2004 to 2006, he was one of the senior coordinators of the U.S. Iraq policy.

Report: U.S. recognized Armenian Genocide in 1951

According to a 1951 U.S. document recently discovered and made public by an Irish researcher, the U.S. government had at the time no qualms about using the term genocide shortly after it was coined by Raphael Lemkin to describe the Armenian experience in the early 20th century Ottoman Empire.

On June 4, Professor William Schabas of the Irish Center for Human Rights blogged about stumbling upon a statement filed by the U.S. government at the International Court of Justice, in 1951. It said in part “The Roman persecution of the Christians, the Turkish massacres of Armenians, the extermination of millions of Jews and Poles by the Nazis are outstanding examples of the crime of genocide.”

The blog entry was further made public by the Armenian Assembly of America on June 6. The document is available online

Armenia democracy activists visit Europe, U.S.

A delegation of three representatives of the Armenian nongovernmental sector was in Washington on June 10–11 as a part of tour that also included stops in Strasbourg and Brussels. The aim was raising awareness of challenges to democracy in Armenia.

Larisa Minasyan of the Open Society Institute (OSI)’s Armenia affiliate told the Armenian Reporter in a conversation on June 11 that they are on a mission to provide full and complete information from the viewpoint of the Armenian public and share their assessment of the post-election situation with their foreign colleagues and European and U.S. officials.

Amalia Kostanyan of Transparency International Armenia, suggested “at least half” of the foreign aid to Armenia is ineffective, as “it did not save the country from a deep crisis” following the February election. She commended the Armenian government’s willingness to resolve the ensuing problems, adding, however, that current actions are inadequate and will not yield the intended results.

Ms. Kostanyan said that they were advocating for a comprehensive fulfillment of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)’s resolution on Armenia passed in April.

President of the Gyumri-based Asparez Journalists’ Club Levon Barseghyan said that “democracy is a resource for better life [and …] a system for national security” and should be a shared concerned for Armenians in homeland and diaspora.

He said Armenia was not successful in achieving this goal since independence, and called on the diaspora to have a more active role in this process.

U.S. diplomat to discuss Armenia, Caucasus in House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee will on June 18 hear the testimony of the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried titled “The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders.”

The testimony is expected to focus on U.S. efforts to address the Karabakh conflict and resolve outstanding issues between Armenia and Turkey. The committee’s Subcommittee for Europe previously held a hearing focusing on the region in October 2001.

—Yelena Osipova contributed to this week’s briefing.

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