By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian handed on Wednesday a prestigious state award to John Evans during a farewell meeting with the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Armenia.
Kocharian said, according to his office, that he decided to award the Mkhitar Gosh Medal to Evans in recognition of the latter’s “remarkable contribution to the development and strengthening of Armenian-American friendly relations.” The bilateral ties have made “serious progress” and yielded “tangible results” during the retiring diplomat’s two-year service in Armenia, the presidential press service quoted him as saying.
Evans was cited as agreeing with Kocharian and singling out the U.S. government’s decision earlier this year to provide $235.6 million worth of economic assistance to Armenia under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program. He is apparently the first U.S. government official awarded by the Armenian government.
The award appears to be a thinly veiled gesture of gratitude for Evans’s public description of the 1915-1918 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. “The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century,” the envoy had declared during a series of meetings in early 2005 with Armenian-American activists in California.
The bombshell remarks contradicted a long-running U.S. government policy of avoiding the use of the word genocide with regard to the Armenian massacres. They are believed to have been instrumental in the Bush administration’s decision, officially announced in May, to replace Evans with another career diplomat. The normal diplomatic term for U.S. ambassadors abroad is three years.
In an interview with RFE/RL last week, Evans refused to comment on the controversy triggered by his recall, saying that it is an internal U.S. affair. He indicated that he might speak up about it in a future book.
(Presidential press service photo)