By Emil Danielyan
Marie Yovanovitch formally took over as the new U.S. ambassador to Armenia on Monday two years after the controversial recall of her predecessor.
Yovanovitch reaffirmed U.S. support for Armenia’s democratization and economic development as she handed her credentials to President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Stressing the United States’ readiness to assist in Armenia’s progress towards democracy and a market-based economy, the diplomat said she will do her best for the development and expansion of bilateral relations,” Sarkisian’s office said in a statement. It said Yovanovitch also relayed to Sarkisian President George W. Bush’s congratulations on the 17th anniversary of Armenia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.
Bush pointedly declined to extend such congratulations following Sarkisian’s controversial victory in last February’s presidential election. The U.S. State Department has described the vote as “significantly flawed.”
The Armenian leader was reported to assure Yovanovitch that he is committed to strengthening his country’s “multi-faceted” relations with the U.S. He also thanked Washington for its “consistent” economic assistance to Armenia and praised the U.S. role in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
A career diplomat, Yovanovitch arrived in Yerevan last week just over a month after the U.S. Senate confirmed her as ambassador to Armenia. Pro-Armenian senators had delayed consideration of her nomination in a dispute over the Bush administration’s refusal to label as genocide the World War I-era killings of more than one million Armenians.
Yovanovitch was confirmed despite avoiding describing the mass killings as genocide. Richard Hoagland, the Bush administration’s previous ambassadorial nominee, likewise stuck to the long-standing U.S. policy on the subject during confirmation hearings in the Senate. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez held up Hoagland’s confirmation through a Senate procedure, forcing the White House to withdraw his nomination late last year.
The post of U.S. ambassador in Yerevan had been vacant ever since its previous holder, John Evans, had his tour of duty in Armenia cut short by the administration in August 2005 after publicly affirming the genocide.