ANCA Encourages Administration to Prioritize Concrete Bilateral Economic Initiatives
WASHINGTON—Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Democrat Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), during questioning Tuesday of President Trump’s nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Lynn Tracy, pressed her on the deeply flawed U.S. policy regarding the Armenia Genocide, praised Armenia’s political transition, and encouraged her, if confirmed, to take concrete steps to grow the U.S.-Armenia relationship – starting with a bilateral tax treaty, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“The Trump Administration and I personally acknowledge the historical facts of what took place at the end of the Ottoman Empire – of the mass killings, the forced deportations and marches that ended 1.5 million lives and a lot of suffering. And I will, if confirmed, do everything in my power to acknowledge and respect the losses and the suffering and commit myself to participating in any remembrance activities,” responded Tracy the first of a series of questions, this one posed by Senator Markey, on U.S. policy dealing with the Armenian Genocide. Sen. Markey responded, “It’s time for us just to stand up and call it what it was. It helps us in the future to have credibility.”
Video of Tracy’s exchange with Senator Markey is available here:
After a series of historical questions about the Armenian Genocide, Sen. Menendez asked: “would you punish a U.S. Embassy official in Armenia for an honest remembrance of the Armenian Genocide?”
Tracy responded, “Senator, I would expect that, as with myself, we follow the policy of the Administration. And, the policy is that we acknowledge the historical facts of the events of 1915 as a mass atrocity and that we participate in any remembrance activities. And, I’ll just say, as a senior leader in the Foreign Service, I am always open to debate on my team. I don’t punish people for expressing their viewpoints. But, as members of the Executive Branch, at the end of the day, we support the President’s policy,” concluded Ms. Tracy.
“This is the problem with nominees who come before us, and it’s not you particularly,” followed up Sen. Menendez. “In fact, we have a historical reality: 1.5 million people were massacred. That’s genocide. And yet, we send an Ambassador to a country and have them go to a memorial of a holocaust of the Armenian people and they won’t be able to call it genocide. It’s pretty ironic. If we are not able to acknowledge the past, we are destined to relive it,” stressed Sen. Menendez.
Video of Ms. Tracy’s exchange with Sen. Menendez is available here:
“We regret that Ambassador-designate Tracy, in her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was so very publicly reduced to using euphemistic and evasive language to avoid proper condemnation of the Armenian Genocide,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “She is, sadly, yet another victim of the lack of will on the part of successive U.S. administrations to reject Ankara’s open and arrogantly enforced gag-rule forbidding proper American remembrance of this crime.”
Calling attention to the Armenia’s democratic transition earlier in the year, Sen. Markey asked what the U.S. is doing to support reform, either diplomatically or through U.S. assistance. Tracy responded that the U.S. focus has been on three areas – fighting corruption, strengthening civil society and supporting an independent media. “These are the areas that help maintain accountability, buttress the checks and balances that are necessary in a democratic society. Those are the areas that we are going to work to support the democratic aspirations of the Armenian people,” explained Tracy.
“While we certainly appreciate the spirit of Ambassador-designate Tracy’s support for ‘fighting corruption, strengthening civil society and supporting an independent media,’ the fact is that Armenia has already made remarkable progress on all three of these fronts, far outpacing neighboring Azerbaijan and leading much of the region and even the world in terms of democratic development,” noted ANCA’s Hamparian. “America’s priority now should be leveraging Armenia’s progress to materially upgrade bilateral ties – through a Tax Treaty, Social Security Totalization Agreement, non-stop U.S.-to Armenia flights, trade missions, export promotion, and other mutually beneficial initiatives,” added Hamparian.
Senator Menendez encouraged Ms. Tracy to promote and support a new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty. “Senator, if confirmed, I will be very pleased to look further into this issue. My understanding is that the lead federal agency is the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy. But I will certainly be very happy to look into this issue further with the Treasury,” noted Ms. Tracy.
“We thank Senators Menendez and Markey for their constructive lines of questioning, and appreciate Ambassador-designate Tracy’s words of support for Armenia’s remarkable political transition,” said Hamparian. “In the coming days, we look forward to the Committee learning more – through her written responses – about how she intends to strengthen Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition, materially elevate U.S.-Armenia political, economic, and military relations, and drive actual progress on key deliverables, starting with a long overdue U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty.”
In her testimony submitted for the record, Ms. Tracy noted, “the overall goal of our Armenia policy remains an independent, democratic, and prosperous Armenia, at peace with its neighbors. Situated astride a geographic and cultural crossroads, Armenia has always balanced competing interests, and we continue to affirm our commitment to a sovereign Armenia, free to choose its own partners.”
The Trump Administration nominated Ms. Tracy as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia on September 21st. Ms. Tracy is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serving as Senior Advisor for Russia Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, she served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, and Principal Officer at the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Astana, Kazakhstan. Additionally, Ms. Tracy served as the Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, where she was awarded the Secretary’s Award for Heroism. She is the recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award. Ms. Tracy earned her B.A. from the University of Georgia and J.D. from the University of Akron.