WASHINGTON, D.C. – During confirmation hearing of former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), pressed Flake on Turkey’s ongoing denial in light of U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide by President Joe Biden, reported the Armenian Assembly of America.
Senator Menendez stated that “for many decades, the Armenian Genocide has been denied by the descendants of those who perpetrated it. In 2019, the Senate recognized the Armenian Genocide for the first time. In April of this year, on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, President Biden joined us in acknowledging this truth. In the past you’ve voted against resolutions that recognized the Armenian Genocide. Will you join this body and the Administration in reaffirming the Armenian Genocide?”
Senator Flake responded: “Yes.”
Senator Menendez continued: “If you’re confirmed, will you reiterate that commitment on April 24, which is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day?”
Senator Flake responded: “I will.”
In addition, the Chairman, along with his colleagues, raised a number of concerns about Turkey’s continued intentions to purchase additional Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft weapons systems, which military analysts have determined compromise NATO and U.S. security. They also raised questions about Turkey’s visible lack of respect for human rights and freedom of the press, with more journalists in prison that any other country, with the exception of Communist Party-controlled China.
In light of Turkey’s continued pursuit of Russian weaponry and flouting of NATO disapproval, the importance and need for instituting the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) were emphasized on a bipartisan basis.
In addition, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) asked how Senator Flake would advance democratic values and human rights, while Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) expressed concerns that “President Erdogan has taken Turkey way off track and in the wrong direction, both with respect to NATO commitments overall, as well as other malign actions in the region and undermining human rights at home… We also have seen him aiding and abetting the attacks against Armenia.”
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) noted that Senator Flake will “have a difficult balancing act” as there are a lot of issues to “hold Turkey accountable for, from Cyprus to the repression of religious minorities, to ongoing tensions with Greece, to Armenian Genocide recognition.”
In his written testimony, Senator Flake stated that: “If confirmed, I will encourage Turkey to support efforts to find a sustainable long-term solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and encourage peaceful and diplomatic resolutions to disagreements in the Eastern Mediterranean.”