June 7, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918

SENATORS KERRY AND KENNEDY DEMAND ANSWERS ABOUT EVANS FIRING

Two Leading Legislators Formally Ask Secretary Rice for Clarification of Ambassador's Premature Dismissal

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), this week, joined the growing list of legislators demanding answers from the Administration regarding the recall of U.S. Ambassador to Armenian John Evans over his honest and accurate public statements about the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In a June 5th letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the two Massachusetts Senators conveyed their concerns regarding reports that the Ambassador was dismissed “due to the use of the word ‘genocide’ when describing the atrocities that were committed against the Armenian people in 1915.” They added that, “Reports from diplomats at the time make clear that genocide accurately described these events. Henry Morgenthau, then our Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, described these actions as a campaign of racial extermination.” They closed their letter by noting that, “Allegedly the Government of Turkey was dismayed by Amb. Evans’ remarks and expressed this to the U.S. Government. We would like clarification as soon as possible about Amb. Evans’ premature dismissal after 35 years of exemplary service to the United States Government.”

The letter was sent in the wake of the May 23rd White House announcement nominating Richard Hoagland to serve as the new Ambassador to Armenia. Amb. Evans will be replaced in Yerevan after Ambassador Hoagland’s Senate confirmation process is completed.

The State Department, with the blessing of the White House, fired Amb. Evans in response to 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 forced to issue a statement clarifying that his references to the Armenian Genocide were his personal views and did not represent a change in U.S. 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 decided 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A. Herter Award,” recognizing creative thinking and intellectual courage within the Foreign Service, reportedly rescinded the award following pressure from the State Department in the days leading up to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington, DC to meet with President Bush.

“We join with Armenians throughout Massachusetts and around the nation in thanking Senators Kennedy and Kerry for demanding an explanation of the circumstances of Ambassador Evans’ firing – particularly as they relate to the role of the Turkish government,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Despite repeated Congressional inquiries dating back more than three months, the Administration has yet to respond to a single question, to provide any meaningful explanation of its actions, or to release even one of the diplomatic cables from the Turkish government on this matter.”

Upon sending the letter, Sen. Kennedy noted, “What happened in Armenia was genocide. No one should lose their job for stating the plain truth.”

Senator Kerry elaborated, stating: “If history has taught us anything, it’s that when we see it we must call genocide by its name. There is no doubt about the genocide of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children, and the United States government should be straight about this piece of world history. It’s an outrage that a respected lifelong diplomat would be fired simply for speaking the truth. In 1990 I fought alongside Senator Dole to designate April 24 as a national day of remembrance so we could learn from this dark period and honor the memories of those Armenians who suffered.” Sen. Kerry continued, noting that, “The Ambassador and his career should not be made a scapegoat for this administration’s refusal to face the facts and strengthen the ties between our countries.”

As early as March 8th, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian expressed grave disappointment over reports that Ambassador 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.”

On May 23rd, sixty U.S. House members cosigned a letter to Secretary Rice, spearheaded by Rep. Markey, calling for an explanation of the Ambassador’s recall. Earlier, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA) submitted questions at House International Relations Committee hearings with Secretary Rice. On May 25th, Rep. Pallone condemned Amb. Evans’ firing, expressing concerns about Turkish government intervention in the decision.

The full text of Senators Kerry and Kennedy’s letter follows.

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June 5, 2006

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

We are writing to convey our disappointment over the apparent dismissal of the United States Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans. It is our understanding that Ambassador Evans will be leaving his post early, reportedly as a result of comments he made early last year.

In an exchange with Armenian American groups in February 2005 Ambassador Evans used the word “genocide” to describe the horrific atrocities that were committed against the Armenian people in 1915. We believe, and the reports from our diplomats at that time, make clear that genocide accurately described these events. Henry Morgenthau, then our Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, described these actions as a “campaign of race extermination.” Several U.S. officials, including President Reagan, have used the term “genocide” to describe what happened to the Armenian people.

Allegedly the Government of Turkey was dismayed by Ambassador Evans’ remarks and expressed this to the U.S. government. We would like clarification as soon as possible about Ambassador Evans’ premature dismissal after 35 years of exemplary service to the United States Government. We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Edward M. Kennedy
John F. Kerry