President Barack Obama has announced his decision to nominate another U.S. career diplomat as Washington’s next ambassador to Armenia.
The White House announced late on Thursday that Obama will ask the U.S. Senate to approve the appointment of Richard Mills, until recently the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, to the position.
“I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country,” it quoted Obama as saying in reference to Mills and more than a dozen other individuals nominated to key U.S. administration posts.
The current U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, John Heffern, began his tour of duty in October 2011. Most of his predecessors had served in Armenia for three years.
Heffern, also a longtime member of the U.S. Foreign Service, reacted to news of Mills’s nomination on his Twitter page. “I told Rick, if confirmed, best job in world!” he wrote.
Mills, who has worked at American diplomatic missions around the world, will face tricky hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the full upper house of the U.S. Congress votes on his candidacy. The committee’s chairman, Robert Menendez, and other pro-Armenian members are likely to press him to refer to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
Heffern declined to use the word “genocide” during his confirmation hearings in summer 2011, arguing that “the characterization of those events is a policy decision that is made by the president of the United States.” Menendez criticized this stance but refrained from blocking Heffern’s appointment.
The New Jersey Democrat had famously blocked in 2007 congressional confirmation of Richard Hoagland, another career diplomat nominated for the top U.S. diplomatic post in Yerevan, because of the latter’s comments on the Armenian genocide. The administration of then President George W. Bush was forced to make another ambassadorial appointment.