Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) cited the refusal of U.S. Ambassador to Turkey nominee David Michael Satterfield to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as an important reason to pass pending Senate and House Armenian Genocide legislation, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). S.Res.150 and H.Res.296 would – as a matter of U.S. national policy – recognize the Armenian Genocide, reject the denial of this crime, and encourage Armenian Genocide education in public schools.
In an exchange during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Ambassador-designate Satterfield last week, Sen. Menendez asked the nominee if he characterizes the 1915-1923 Armenian atrocities as ‘genocide.’ Satterfield, falling back on President Trump’s April 24th statements, stopped short of properly referencing the crime.
“This is an artful dance that we do as a nation in which we do not recognize the historical fact which even the U.S. Holocaust Museum, which is a quasi-governmental entity, acknowledges the facts of the Armenian Genocide but we are incapable of mouthing the comments of an Armenian Genocide,” stated Menendez. “We can not ultimately move to the future, we can not recognize the past as a simple reality.”
Senator Menendez called attention to his introduction of S.Res.150, along with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), which calls for a permanent policy of remembrance and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The resolution currently has 16 cosponsors. The companion measure in the U.S. House (H.Res.296), spearheaded by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) currently has 88 co-sponsors.
During the hearing, Sen. Menendez and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) slammed Turkey’s intentions to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system, threatening sanctions if the purchase moves forward and pledging to block a pending multi-billion dollar U.S. made F-35 fighter aircraft sale to Turkey. Satterfield was clear in his response, noting that the U.S. will continue messaging to the Turkish government – publicly and privately – that “if they proceed with the acquisition of the S-400, then they will not be able to participate in the F-35 program […], that there will be no Patriot [missile] sale if they purchase the S-400s. That message has been reinforced as clearly as it can be. It needs to continue to be reinforced.”
Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) pressed Ambassador-Designate Satterfield about human rights in Turkey and the treatment of the Kurds, respectively. Satterfield decried the decline of democracy in Turkey in his written remarks, noting, “The United States, along with many others in the international community, is troubled by the negative trajectory of democracy and respect for freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in Turkey. Turkey currently incarcerates more journalists than any other country in the world. No democracy can flourish without a vibrant, diversely-owned, and free press. Accountable and responsive government, an independent judiciary, and respect for individual rights are pillars of established democracies. Turkey should protect freedom of expression, especially for those voices that are critical of the government, and release journalists imprisoned for their work.”
Despite that, Satterfield reiterated the false narrative of Turkey’s role as a staunch U.S. ally. “Turkey hosts the NATO Land Component Command in Izmir, serves as one of four Framework Nations for Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, and fills the deputy commander position in NATO’s new training mission in Iraq,” stated Satterfield.
“Turkey has stood firm in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, refusing to recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea. We have worked together to counter terrorism. Turkey has been integral to our efforts to bring about a political solution to the Syrian conflict and achieve the lasting defeat of ISIS, not least because of our access to Turkish air bases. Meanwhile, the Turkish people merit recognition for their generosity in hosting nearly four million Syrian refugees,” he added.