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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

White House Loses Fight for Armenia Ambassador

WASHINGTON -- The White House gave in to Democratic Party objections and on Friday withdrew the nomination of a career diplomat to be ambassador to Armenia.

Senator Robert Menendez placed a hold on the nomination of Richard Hoagland for the second time in January because of Hoagland's refusal to call the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

A hold is a parliamentary privilege accorded to senators that prevents a nomination from going forward to a confirmation hearing.

Hoagland's confirmation was blocked by Senate Democrats in the last Congress, and U.S. President George W. Bush's administration resubmitted his name in January when the new Congress convened.

Republican California congressman Adam Schiff supported the Bush administration's decision to withdraw Hoagland's name.

"During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Hoagland continued to deny that the massacre of a million and a half Armenians between 1915 and 1923 was genocide, thereby compounding the injury done to Armenian people and, especially, the few remaining survivors of the first genocide of the 20th Century," Schiff said. "I hope the president will soon nominate a new ambassador who will be more forthcoming in discussing the Armenian genocide.

Hoagland's predecessor, John Evans, reportedly had his tour of duty in Armenia cut short because, in a social setting, he referred to the killings as a genocide.

In urging the administration to submit another candidate, Menendez, a Democrat, said "the State Department and the Bush administration are just flat-out wrong in their refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide. It is well past time to drop the euphemisms, the wink-wink, nod-nod brand of diplomacy that overlooks heinous atrocities around the world."

He said Friday that the Bush administration did a disservice to the Armenian people and Armenian-Americans when it removed Evans "simply because he recognized the Armenian genocide."

"It was clear that their nominee to fill his place was controversial," Menendez said. "I hope that our next nominee will bring a different understanding to this issue and foster a productive relationship with our friends in Armenia."

The Bush administration has warned that even a congressional debate on the genocide question could damage relations with Turkey, a moderate Muslim nation that is a NATO member and an important strategic ally.

Turkey has adamantly denied claims by scholars that its predecessor Ottoman state killed Armenians in a planned genocide. Turkey says the killings occurred at a time of civil conflict and that the casualty figures are inflated.