WASHINGTON, DC – Over 60 Members of Congress, led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking for clarification on reports of U.S. Ambassador to Armenian John Evans’ recall over his forthright remarks about the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The letter was sent on the eve of a May 23rd White House announcement nominating Richard Hoagland to serve as the new Ambassador to Armenia. Amb. Evans will be relieved of his duties as soon as Hoagland’s Senate confirmation process is completed.
The Administration has recalled Amb. Evans over his February 2005 statements at Armenian American community functions, during which he properly characterized the Armenian Genocide as ‘genocide.’ Following his statements, Amb. Evans was apparently forced to issue a statement clarifying that his references to the Armenian Genocide were his personal views and did not represent a change in US policy. He subsequently issued a correction to this statement, replacing a reference to the genocide with the word “tragedy.” The American Foreign Service Association, which had planned to honor Amb. Evans with the “Christian A. Herter Award,” recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the Foreign Service, reportedly rescinded the award following pressure from the State Department a few days before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Washington, DC to meet with President Bush.
“Ambassador Evans has been recalled for doing nothing more than honoring the forsaken pledge of his president,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We want to thank Congressman Markey and his 59 colleagues for calling for a clarification and rejecting the Armenian Genocide ‘gag-rule’ imposed by the Turkish government and, sadly, enforced by our own State Department.”
“Armenian Americans truly regret that the Administration lacks the courage to speak honestly about its reasons for firing Ambassador Evans,” added Hamparian. “We call upon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – the Congressional panel constitutionally charged with oversight of diplomatic appointments – to hold a hearing thoroughly examining the reasons behind this firing, the role of the Turkish government, and the broader implications for the future of the Foreign Service that a senior American diplomat’s career has been ended simply for speaking the truth.”
The 60 Members of Congress expressed special concern about the destructive precedent of recalling a U.S. diplomat for speaking truthfully on matters of historical record. They wrote that, “we must not allow the perception to linger that he [Amb. Evans] is being required to vacate his position early for accurately labeling the cataclysmic events of 1915 as genocide.” The Representatives, noting President Ronald Reagan’s references to the Armenian Genocide, reminded Secretary Rice that Amb. Evans “did nothing more than succinctly repeat the conclusions enunciated by those before him.”
The Congressional signatories also expressed concern about the role of the Government of Turkey in the impending removal of Amb. Evans from his posting. “Were the United States to allow the views or beliefs of a third country to interfere with our diplomatic postings to the Republic of Armenia,” wrote the House members, “it would establish a dangerous precedent and be injurious to the long-standing relationship built on trust and friendship between the two countries.”
“I am seriously concerned at the early departure of Ambassador Evans,” stated Rep. Markey. “I hope that this sudden action by the State Department is not related to comments made by Ambassador Evans about the Armenian genocide. 60 members of Congress have signed on to a letter to Secretary Rice asking questions about whether or not Ambassador Evans was forced out of his post. I look forward to a response from the State Department.”
On March 8th, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian expressed grave disappointment at reports that Amb. Evans would be penalized for speaking the truth about the Armenian Genocide. In a letter to Secretary Rice, Hachikian wrote that, “the prospect that a U.S. envoy’s posting – and possibly his career – has been cut short due to his honest and accurate description of a genocide is profoundly offensive to American values and U.S. standing abroad – particularly in light of President Bush’s call for moral clarity in the conduct of our international affairs.”
Subsequently, several Members of Congress, including Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) have each called on Secretary Rice for a clarification of the State Department’s position on this issue. The Los Angeles Times, in a strongly worded March 22nd editorial, made direct reference to Amb. Evans’ impending dismissal, calling on the Turkish Government and U.S. State Department to end their policies of genocide denial.
Members of Congress joining Rep. Markey in cosigning the letter to Secretary Rice were: Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Charles Bass (R-NH), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Jeb Bradley (R-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lois Capps (D-CA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), John Conyers (D-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), Sue Kelly (R-NY), Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), James Langevin (D-RI), Sander Levin (D-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James McGovern (D-MA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Candice Miller (R-MI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Richard Neal (D-MA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), John Olver (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Collin Peterson (D-MN), George Radanovich (R-CA), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Joe Schwarz (R-MI), Mark Souder (R-IN), Ted Strickland (D-OH), John Tierney (D-MA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Diane Watson (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).
The full text of the Congressional letter follows.
Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
May 22, 2006
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
We are writing to express our concerns regarding recent information indicating that U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans would be departing early this summer from his assignment as a result of declaring in February 2005 that “the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the twentieth century,” during public exchanges with Armenian-American communities. It is our hope that these announcements are inaccurate given Evans’ service to his country – in the Foreign Service and as a well-respected ambassador – in a region of strategic importance to the United States.
Ambassador Evans issued a “clarification” and then a “correction” of his remarks. Last June, the American Foreign Service Association originally intended to honor the Ambassador for his “constructive dissent” and intellectual courage and initiative with the Christian A. Herter Award as a result of his recognition of the Armenian Genocide, but later withdrew the distinction.
It now appears that Evans is being forced out of his post. We must not allow the perception to linger that he is being required to vacate his position early for accurately labeling the cataclysmic events of 1915 as genocide.
By employing the proper term last year, the Ambassador was only building on previous statements by our leaders in government, as well as the repeated declarations of numerous world-renowned scholars. In 1981, President Reagan issued a presidential proclamation that said in part: “like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it — and like too many other persecutions of too many other people — the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten . . .” In effect, Ambassador Evans did nothing more than succinctly repeat the conclusions enunciated by those before him.
We have also heard that concerns raised by the Government of Turkey regarding Ambassador Evans’ remarks may have played a role in this affair. We certainly hope that this was not the case. Were the United States to allow the views or beliefs of a third country to interfere with our diplomatic postings to the Republic of Armenia, it would establish a dangerous precedent and be injurious to the long-standing relationship built on trust and friendship between the two countries. In addition, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried recently stated his friendship and support for Evans.
At this critical time in U.S. history and the South Caucasus region, we respectfully request your clarification regarding the current status of Ambassador John Evans. It is our hope that that he will not be forced to prematurely end his exemplary service to the United States and the Republic of Armenia because of his reaffirmation of the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.