- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Recall from Armenia?

Armenian-Americans and their allies in Congress are angered over reports that the U.S. ambassador to Armenia will be recalled or fired for referring to the killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide and upsetting established U.S. policy that avoids using that word.

Ambassador John Evans, a career Foreign Service officer, deliberately referred to the “Armenian genocide” in a speech last year in San Francisco, and rumors of official retaliation have persisted for the past 12 months.

The State Department officially refers to the “massacre” of Armenians under the Ottoman Turkish Empire but has never described the conflict as a deliberate attempt to eliminate an entire race of people. The delicate subject also complicates U.S. relations with Turkey, a key NATO ally that insists no genocide occurred. Turkey says Armenians were killed in an uprising against the Ottomans and rejects demands for an apology from the modern Turkish state.

Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat and co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenia, Grace F. Napolitano and Adam B. Schiff, both California Democrats, have demanded an answer about Mr. Evans’ future from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In a March 11 letter to Miss Rice, Mr. Pallone expressed his “outrage that the State Department is recalling Ambassador Evans as retaliation for statements he made in recognition of the Armenian genocide. It is simply wrong for the State Department to punish Ambassador Evans for statements he made that are factually correct.”

Mrs. Napolitano, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, asked, “Have State Department employees been directed not to use the word ‘genocide’ when discussing the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians starting in 1915?”

Earlier this month, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he has no information about Mr. Evans’ future. The ambassador has been in Armenia for nearly two years.

“I’m not aware that we have recalled anybody,” he said. “I believe that he’s still serving as ambassador in Armenia.”

The Armenian National Committee of America also pressed Miss Rice.

“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,” committee Chairman Ken Hachikian said in a March 8 letter to Miss Rice.

In his Feb. 19, 2005, speech, Mr. Evans told the Bay Area Armenian-American Community, “I will today call it the Armenian genocide. I think we, the U.S. government, owe you, our fellow citizens, a more frank and honest way of discussing the problem.

“Today, as someone who has studied it, there’s no doubt in my mind what happened. I think it is unbecoming of us, as Americans, to play word games here. I believe in calling things by their name.”

Upon his return to the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, Mr. Evans issued a correction that led many observers to speculate that he was under pressure from Washington.

“Although I told my audience that the United States policy on the Armenian tragedy has not changed, I used the term ‘genocide,’ speaking in what I characterized as my personal capacity,” he said.

“That was inappropriate.”

Adopted school

Students and teachers from an Alabama school last week visited the school’s most famous alumna when they met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The delegation from the Brunette C. Hill Elementary School traveled to Washington at the invitation of Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, whose embassy has “adopted” the school, a Greek Embassy spokesman said.

Miss Rice visited her old school in October.

Mr. Mallias also arranged for them to meet former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and invited them to the annual Greek Independence Day celebration.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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