- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Genocide ‘victim’

The State Department yesterday confirmed that the U.S. ambassador to Armenia has been dismissed and has resigned from the foreign service, saying only that he “served at the pleasure of the president and secretary” of state.

Ambassador John Evans, who is returning after only two years of what is usually a three-year assignment, has been at the center of a geopolitical firestorm since he bucked official U.S. policy last year by referring to the “genocide” of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 under the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Armenian-American organizations yesterday expressed outrage and opened an e-mail and letter-writing campaign to Congress, where Mr. Evans has significant support in the House.

“The U.S. ambassador to Armenia is being recalled for honestly and accurately describing the Armenian Genocide as a clear case of genocide,” the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) said yesterday.

The committee, on its Web site (www.anca.org), called for congressional hearings and questioned whether pressure from the Turkish government had any role in the dismissal.

Word of the action began circulating on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, when the White House notified the Senate that President Bush intended to nominate Richard Hoagland to replace Mr. Evans. Mr. Hoagland is currently ambassador to Tajikistan.

Rep. Edward J. Markey on Wednesday sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed by 60 House members, asking her to explain the decision.

“I am seriously concerned at the early departure of Ambassador Evans,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “I hope this sudden action by the State Department is not related to comments made by Mr. Evans about the Armenian Genocide.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack yesterday responded to a reporter who asked about the dismissal, saying, “Look, we, all appointed officials — me, everybody who goes through Senate confirmation — serve at the pleasure of the president and the secretary.”

He added that Mr. Evans “should be congratulated for his long career and distinguished service” for 35 years.

U.S. policy has been to refrain from using the word “genocide” to describe the killings of Armenians during World War I to avoid angering Turkey, a key ally and NATO member.

Mr. Bush recently called it “one of the great tragedies of history,” although President Reagan called it genocide in a 1981 proclamation on the Holocaust.

“Like the genocide of the Armenians before it … the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten,” Mr. Reagan said.

Mr. Evans first crossed the line in a Feb. 24, 2005, speech to ANCA.

“I will today call it the Armenian Genocide,” he said. “I think we, the U.S. government, owe you, our fellow citizens, a more frank and honest way of discussing this problem. The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century.”

Four days later, he issued a clarification, calling his remarks “inappropriate” and noting that U.S. policy had not changed.

‘Idol’ speculation

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was one of the millions of fans glued to their TV sets Wednesday night to find out who would become the next “American Idol,” reports our State Department correspondent Nicholas Kralev.

Miss Rice, who an aide said tunes in to the program from time to time, had a personal stake in the competition. Not only is she a musician herself, but the winner, Taylor Hicks, comes from her hometown of Birmingham, Ala.

The aide jokingly suggested that Miss Rice and Mr. Hicks could perform together, with her playing the piano and him singing. That opportunity might arise soon, as the television show’s finalists begin a summer tour that is likely to include Washington.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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