Today's Zaman
26 September 2008, Friday

The Bush administration's nominee for US ambassador to Turkey has
refused to call the killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War
I "genocide" or "ethnic cleansing," despite pressure from a leading
pro-Armenian Democratic senator.

During his confirmation hearing before the US Senate's Foreign
Relations Committee on Wednesday, career diplomat James F. Jeffrey
responded to leading questions, particularly posed by Democratic
Senator Robert Menendez.

In May 2006 US President George W. Bush removed John Evans, then
ambassador to Armenia, who had openly described the Armenian killings
as genocide, in violation of Washington's official policy. He nominated
career diplomat Richard E. Hoagland for the post, but Menendez blocked
the nomination when Hoagland failed to describe the Armenian incident
as genocide. Bush then nominated Marie Yovanovitch, who also declined
to use the word "genocide." She recently arrived in Yerevan.

In her opening testimony at her confirmation hearing in June,
Yovanovitch used the terms "mass killings," "ethnic cleansing" and
"forced deportation" when describing the incident. The first question
posed to Jeffrey by Menendez during his confirmation hearing, according
to the Anatolia news agency, was "What should the US do in the event
of Turkey's acceptance of genocide of its own accord?"

"The administration will make a decision by taking all factors
into consideration," Jeffrey said in response. Jeffrey also said
that he would support initiatives which encourage Turkish-Armenian
rapprochement and noted that Washington favors the unconditional
opening of borders with Armenia by Turkey as well as the establishment
of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

When Jeffrey used the term "forced exile," while speaking of the 1915
incidents, Menendez said that he was disappointed that this term fell
short of the term "ethnic cleansing," which was earlier used by some
US officials.

In response, Jeffrey said that he was behind statements by officials
which outline US policy, but still refrained from using the term
"ethnic cleansing," Anatolia reported.

Armenia claims that Ottoman Turks killed up to 1.5 million Armenians
during World War I, toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, and labels
the killings as genocide. Turkey says that the casualty figures are
inflated and that the deaths occurred during a time of civil conflict
when both Armenians and Turks were killed.

In early June Bush announced his intention to nominate Jeffrey as
the new US ambassador to Turkey, replacing the current Ambassador
Ross Wilson. Jeffrey is a career member of the Senior Foreign
Service currently serving as deputy national security advisor to
the president. Before he can begin his mission in Turkey, Jeffrey's
nomination must be approved by the US Senate.

Earlier this week, Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian
Assembly of America, outlined the expectations which the Armenian
diaspora in the US has of the ambassadorial nominee. "This represents
a critical opportunity for the US ambassador to Turkey to go further
than Ambassador Yovanovitch and, this time, to squarely affirm the
Armenian genocide," said Ardouny.