New US Ambassador Starts Mission

By Suren Musayelyan

YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — After two years Armenia has a new ambassador of the United States as Marie Yovanovitch began her tour of duty this week.

Yovanovitch, who was confirmed by the US Senate as ambassador on August 1, arrived in the Armenian capital in the middle of last week, but did not submit her credentials to Armenia’s head of state until Monday.

During the reception at Serge Sargisian’s residence, Yovanovitch reportedly forwarded the message from US President George W. Bush on the occasion of Armenia’s Independence Day, which had been marked the previous day.

The presidential press service quotes the new US ambassador as emphasizing her government’s readiness to assist Armenia’s progress towards democracy and market economy. Yovanovitch is also reported to have pledged every effort for developing and expanding bilateral relations.

On behalf of her government, the US ambassador also welcomed what she described as Sargisian’s courageous initiative to invite his Turkish counterpart to Armenia in an effort to achieve rapprochement between the hitherto estranged nations and said that it has a crucial significance for the region and will promote the establishment of peace and stability.

The previous US ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, was sacked over his position on the Armenian Genocide, which ran counter to that of the White House.

In 2005, while on a trip to California, which is home to a large Armenian Diaspora, Evans described during public meetings the World War I killings of more than 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.

Eventually Evans was asked to resign.

Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who prior to her new appointment also served in two other former Soviet republics, namely Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, was confirmed by the US Senate despite avoiding the term genocide in describing the mass killings of Armenians.

While confirmation hearings in June Yovanovitch did, however, use the Armenian term “Medz Yeghern” (or Great Calamity) to refer to the 1915-1923 killings.

Earlier, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) twice held up the confirmation of another White House nominee, Richard Hoagland, over his stance on the Genocide.

During the Monday reception, Sargisian emphasized the importance of “developing versatile ties” with the United States. His press office also quoted him as commending the US for its mediation in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.

During their meeting, the two also exchanged views on the developments in the Caucasus and discussed prospects of Armenian- American economic cooperation.