WASHINGTON–Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) grilled the Bush Administration’s nominee for the post of US Ambassador to Turkey about the veracity of the Armenian Genocide during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday.
While James Jeffrey, the ambassadorial nominee, stated that he supported the Bush administration’s position on the Genocide, during questions posed by both senators he seemed to veer from the most recent position articulated by the US State Department, which issued a statement clarifying the US position in response to similar questions in July stemming from the confirmation of the US ambassadorial nominee for Armenia
In a letter dated July 29, Matthew A. Reynolds, Acting Assistant Secretary of State stated: "The Administration recognizes that the mass killings, ethnic cleansing, and forced deportations of over one and a half million Armenia’s were conducted by the Ottoman Empire. We indeed hold Ottoman officials responsible for those crimes."
In response to queries from both senators regarding the State Department’s July clarification, Jeffrey continued to stress the importance of convening a commission to determine what historically happened at the time.
Menendez further called into question Jeffrey’s position by reading another quote from the Reynolds letter that said: "Our goal is to help archivists protect the evidence of the past so that future generations will have the documentation of the mass killings and deportations of Armenia’s committed by Ottoman’soldiers and other Ottoman officials in 1915. Our goal is not to open a debate on whether the Ottomans committed these horrendous acts; it is to help preserve the documentation that supports the truth of those events."
"What Assistant Secretary Reynolds wrote is US government policy and we stand by it. What I was trying to explain is that It’s also important for Turks and Armenia’s to move forward and establish a common view of historical facts," responded Jeffrey to Menendez’s inquiry.
Menendez concluded that Jeffrey had "taken us back to where we were" before the State Dept. clarified its position after inquires were made by the same committee and its chairman Sen. Joe Biden.
Based on the same clarification provided by the State Dept., Sen. Kerry asked Jeffrey whether he supported the formation of a commission that would "get to the bottom of historical facts" or one that would help the two countries come closer to establishing diplomatic ties. Jeffrey said he would support "whatever the sides decided."
Menendez asked Jeffrey whether the US should recognize the Armenian Genocide "If Turkey on its own came to the evolution and said there was a genocide." Jeffrey responded by asserting that the US would have to review all aspects of the issue, adding that there might be other factors "such as our general approach to other conflicts."
When pressed, Jeffrey reluctantly said that Turkey should establish diplomatic ties without any preconditions, a policy principle expressed by Armenia’since 1998.