September 14, 2011 - 10:00 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. President Barack Obama’s controversial nominee to serve as ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, won a contested vote within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over whether he should serve as America’s top envoy to Ankara, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
By contrast, U.S. ambassador to Armenia nominee John Heffern was approved unanimously by the Committee by voice vote.
Voting against the Ricciardone nomination were Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jim Risch (R-ID).
“We would like to thank Senator Menendez for his principled leadership in calling attention to Amb. Ricciardone’s offensive and unacceptable responses to questions dealing with the plight of Christians in Turkey,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Sen. Menendez along with Senators Boxer and Risch sent a powerful message to Mr. Ricciardone and State Department officials – that the American people deserve a U.S. envoy who will fight hard for U.S. values and interests – not succumb to Turkey’s propaganda machine.”
Senator Menendez, who spoke forcefully prior to voting against the nominee, noted Ambassador Ricciardone’s incorrect response to his written question concerning the state of Christian churches in Turkey today. Amb. Ricciardone’s initial response that “most of the Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 are still operating as churches” was “so wrong as to be offensive,” stated Senator Menendez.
He continued, “What concerns me more, however, is that his response indicates that he either did not carefully review the responses that were submitted in his name or worse or that he truly was unaware of the history of the Christian church in Turkey and the difficulties that Christian churches continue to face in that country. His response indicates a lack of focus or interest in issue affecting the Armenian community . . . We need an Ambassador in Ankara that can support, defend and advocate on behalf of all of the United States’ interests vis-à-vis Turkey. Unfortunately, I’ve lost confidence in the ability of Mr. Ricciardone to undertake that task and will not be able to support his nomination.”
In his responses to Senate inquiry on the plight of the Christian community in Turkey, specifically the state of Armenian Churches confiscated by Turkey since 1915, Mr. Ricciardone first incorrectly stated that most are functioning today as churches, then issued a revised state.