BUSH SEEKS TO FILL ARMENIA ENVOY POST
By Michael Doyle, [email protected]

Miami Herald
April 2 2008
FL

President Bush announced his nominee for ambassador to Armenia,
a position that has been mired in controversy.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is trying again to fill a long-vacant
ambassador's seat to Armenia that's gotten entangled in U.S. politics.

In a move that could either revive a Capitol Hill conflict or reveal
that passions have cooled, Bush has announced plans to nominate career
diplomat Marie L. Yovanovitch as the ambassador to Armenia. If she's
confirmed, she would replace the previous ambassador, John Evans, who
was recalled in 2006 after he gave speeches in California endorsing
claims of an Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Those claims inflamed sentiment in Turkey. Last fall, Turkish officials
protested bitterly after the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved
a resolution that condemned the killings of Armenians from 1915 to
1923 as genocide. Democrats withdrew support for the resolution after
President Bush called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ask that it not
be considered by the full House of Representatives.

The collapse of the House resolution means that the Yovanovitch
nomination may become this year's highest-profile issue for
Armenian-Americans who have championed the genocide issue for decades.

It also could become mired in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Armenian-Americans make up sizable voting blocs in California and New
Jersey, and candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is a member of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will consider Yovanovitch's
nomination.

A 1980 graduate of Princeton who later earned a master's degree at
the National War College, Yovanovitch has been serving since the
summer of 2005 as the U.S. ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic. She
previously served in Russia.

The United States last had a permanent representative in Armenia two
years ago. Evans said he was recalled from the post early after he
told audiences in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and Fresno,
Calif., that Armenians were the victims of genocide.

Evans said his characterization displeased Turkey and his State
Department superiors. Turkey maintains that the word "genocide"
mischaracterizes a complicated war in which many people died on
both sides.

"Armenian-Americans have attempted to extricate and isolate their
history from the complex circumstances in which their ancestors were
embroiled," the Turkish Embassy said in a statement last year.

"In so doing, they describe a world populated only by white-hatted
heroes and black-hatted villains."

The unsettled question for Yovanovitch is whether she can avoid the
fate of Bush's last nominee, career diplomat Richard Hoagland.

Armenian-American activists and their Capitol Hill allies stymied
Hoagland's nomination. He repeatedly ducked the word "genocide"
during his June 2006 Senate confirmation hearing, opting instead for
words such as "tragedy" and "horrific."