By Emil DanielyanA U.S. senator on Thursday again blocked the congressional confirmation of President George W. Bush’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Armenia, citing the latter’s failure to publicly recognize the Armenian genocide.
In a statement posted on his website, Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said he placed a second “hold” on the nomination of career diplomat Richard Hoagland two days after it was reaffirmed by Bush.
“Given the circumstances and controversy surrounding Mr. Hoagland's nomination, I believe that the best way to move forward would be for the president to nominate a new candidate for this ambassadorship,” he said.
Menendez went on to attack the Bush administration for its refusal to use the term “genocide” with regard to the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians during the dying years of the Ottoman Empire. “If there is any sincerity behind the Bush administration’s rhetoric about ‘liberty on the march’ … then American diplomacy should consist of nothing less than unvarnished honesty with our friends and enemies alike. And we must call genocide by its name,” he said.
The previous U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, John Evans, is believed to have been recalled by the White House last year over his public description of the mass killings as genocide. Hoagland’s failure to do so during confirmation hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last summer angered the influential Armenian community in the United States.
One of its two main lobbying organizations, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has since been vigorously campaigning against Hoagland’s appointment. The ANCA criticized the U.S. administration on Wednesday for re-nominating the Hoagland, again branding him a “genocide denier.”
Unlike the ANCA, the more moderate Armenian Assembly of Armenia has dropped its opposition to the nomination. Its leaders say that Hoagland never explicitly denied the genocide and that the prolonged absence of a U.S. ambassador in Yerevan is damaging Armenia’s interests.
(Photo courtesy of the U.S. Congress: Robert Menendez.)