By Emil Danielyan
A leading Armenian-American lobbying group has pledged more efforts to block the congressional confirmation of President George W. Bush’s pick for new U.S. ambassador to Armenia, which cleared a key hurdle on Thursday.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) said it is undaunted by career diplomat Richard Hoagland’s crucial endorsement by the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. His confirmation by the full Senate now seems a forgone conclusion.
The committee had twice delayed the vote this summer due to its pro-Armenian members’ protests against Hoagland’s refusal to refer to the 1915 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Washington’s outgoing ambassador in Yerevan, John Evans, is believed to have been recalled for publicly recognizing the genocide.
"The ANCA remains firmly opposed to the Hoagland nomination, and will continue to seek to block his confirmation until he publicly states that he does not question the Armenian Genocide, and the State Department explains both its firing of the current Ambassador as well as the role of the Turkish government in this controversy," the ANCA executive director, Aram Hamparian, said in a statement. Hamparian thanked the five senators who voted against Hoagland and denounced the Bush administration for its continuing refusal to use the word “genocide” with regard to the slaughter of some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians.
The Armenian Assembly of America, a more moderate advocacy group, also praised those lawmakers but stopped short of calling for Hoagland’s rejection by the Senate. "We appreciate the remarks of the Senators to squarely affirm the Armenian Genocide and to urge the Administration to review and rethink its current policy," its executive director, Bryan Ardouny, said in a statement. "The historical truth is undeniable and we will continue to pursue universal and irrevocable affirmation of the Armenian Genocide."
The Assembly’s praise was also addressed to those senators who called for U.S. recognition of the genocide but voted for Bush’s nominee, citing U.S. national interests. Among them was Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, who demanded last month an official explanation from the State Department regarding Evans’s dismissal.
Another ranking Democrat, John Kerry of Massachusetts, remained adamant in rejecting Hoagland’s candidacy and accusing the White House of caving in to pressure from Turkey. "For us to allow an ambassador to be recalled because he uttered the word 'genocide' is to kowtow, it's to cave in, to those who change history," Kerry told the Senate panel during a 45-minute debate that preceded the 13-to-5 vote.
"We're not going to allow revisionism ... We honor history and we honor the truth," he added, according to AFP.
Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, likewise said she can not support Hoagland "until we call the first genocide of the 20th century by its rightful name." "In Darfur we are witnessing the first genocide of the 21st century and the Bush administration called it that," Reuters quoted her as saying.
However, Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, countered that rejecting a qualified nominee "because of concerns of U.S. policy toward that country (Armenia) would set a troubling precedent."