Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson

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Armenian Assembly Notes Key Priorities for U.S.-Armenia Relations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On January 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State nomination of Rex Tillerson by a party line vote of 11 to 10, clearing the path for approval by the full Senate.

As genocide denialists are calling upon President Trump and his team to guarantee that the Armenian Genocide will not be recognized by his administration, Trump’s cabinet nominees are taking a considered view of this important human rights issues. Responding to a question for the record posed by New Jersey’s senior Senator, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the Secretary of State nominee, for his part, said: “The tragic atrocities of 1915 remain a painful issue in the relationship between Armenia and Turkey, and it is in the U.S. interest to ensure peaceful and stable relations between the two countries. If confirmed, I will support a full accounting of the historical events and an open dialogue between Armenia and Turkey in the interest of regional stability.”

Additionally, President Trump’s U.S. Representative to the United Nations nominee Nikki Haley responded to Senator Menendez’s question about supporting a U.S. declaration calling the Armenian Genocide as such and whether the failure to do so hereto speaks ill of our values and encourages the continuation of such crimes. She promised: “I will never shy away from calling out other countries for actions taken in conflict with U.S. values and in violation of human rights and international norms.”

Focusing on Turkey’s violations of basic freedoms, Tillerson made it clear that he is “very concerned about many of the measures recently taken by the Turkish government.” He stated: “Religious freedom is a core American principle and an important aspect of international peace and stability. If confirmed, I will work with Turkey to safeguard religious minorities and promote respect for their cultural heritages, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki Seminary.”

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“The Armenian Assembly greatly appreciates Senator Menendez’s long-standing commitment and leadership on Armenian issues and the questions he raised for the nominee,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.  As Tillerson awaits a final vote by the full Senate, more responses to questions regarding U.S.-Armenia relations and the region are anticipated.

“We look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to further strengthen the permanent bonds between the United States and Armenia as well as expand economic opportunities for Armenia,” Ardouny said.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

Photo Caption 1: Secretary of State Nominee, Rex Tillerson

Photo Caption 2: Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Armenian Assembly Highlights Policy Issues for Secretary of State Nomination

Urges Strengthening Permanent Bonds Between Armenia and the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets today to consider President-Elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee Mr. Rex Tillerson, former ExxonMobil CEO, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) highlighted key policy issues in a letter sent to Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD).

“We need a Secretary of State committed to strengthening the permanent bonds between Armenia and the United States, two countries that share common values and beliefs, and who will see in Armenia, which remains an island of stability, a vital ally in the region,” Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian said in their letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “United States-Armenia relations have been consistently characterized by friendship and reciprocity and an active Armenian American community strongly supports further expanding the United States partnership with the Republic of Armenia,” they added.

Assembly Co-Chairs highlighted several areas of concern, including Azerbaijan’s flagrant violations of the 1994/5 cease-fire agreement with respect to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, intentionally escalating the violence as pressure for Armenian concessions and launching a 4-day war last April.

“Such behavior makes it clear that Azerbaijan cannot be trusted to honor its commitments and must be held accountable for its egregious human rights violations,” the Co-Chairs said in the letter. “All Americans should be deeply troubled by…reports of Azerbaijan’s ISIS-inspired mutilations of civilians and beheadings of soldiers.”

“Now is the time to strengthen the OSCE process and ensure vigorous U.S. engagement to bring about a lasting and durable settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that is agreeable to all parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment to the principles of democracy, rule of law, and self-determination,”  they continued.

Barsamian and Krikorian also noted the Assembly’s concerns with respect to Turkey’s more than 20-year blockade of Armenia and its ongoing campaign of genocide denial. “Within Turkey, its treatment of minority communities, repression of basic freedoms, ties to ISIS, and its ongoing failure to return confiscated Armenian churches as well as its continued denial of the Armenian Genocide remain troubling trends,” Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian stated.

In his opening statement, Secretary of State Nominee Tillerson said that “Our approach to human rights begins by acknowledging that American leadership requires moral clarity. We do not face an ‘either or’ choice on defending global human rights. Our values are our interests when it comes to human rights and humanitarian assistance…But our leadership demands action specifically focused on improving the conditions of people the world over, utilizing both aid and economic sanctions as instruments of foreign policy when appropriate.”

Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have a history of human rights abuses, especially in recent reports by international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the U.S. Helsinki Commission. America and its next Secretary of State need to uphold America’s core values and protect fundamental freedoms and human rights.

As the confirmation process continues, the Assembly will continue to advance key priorities and look for ways to further expand U.S.-Armenia relations.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

Click here to read the Armenian Assembly of America’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Attorney General Nominee Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).