Concerns Regarding Turkey/Azerbaijan Raised During Confirmation Hearing

On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing regarding the nomination of Antony Blinken to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. During the over four-hour hearing, senators raised a wide range of issues from democracy and human rights to concerns about Russia, Iran and Turkey, among other American policy priorities.

Incoming committee Chairman and current Ranking Member, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), expressed his hope that President-elect Biden would follow through on his pledge to recognize the truth about the Armenian Genocide.

“I hope that President Biden will follow on his pledge to recognize the truth of the Armenian Genocide, as the Senate did when it unanimously passed my resolution in December 2019. The House has done the same. I think this is an appropriate action to take. I find it so difficult to have our ambassadors to Armenia go to a genocide observance but never say the word genocide. That is something that I hope will change,” stated Senator Menendez.

Senator Menendez also raised concerns about Turkey’s destabilizing actions in the region, “by supporting Azerbaijan’s aggression [and war-crimes] in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and through its own aggressive behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean against our democratic allies, Greece and Cyprus,” and its purchase of the S-400 Russian air-defense system.

Current Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-ID) concurred with Senator Menendez’s remarks regarding Turkey, while Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) inquired as to whether the Biden administration believes “that Turkey needs to continue to be sanctioned until they change their behavior?” .

“What Turkey has done as a NATO ally to acquire S-400s is unacceptable,” said Blinken. Blinken also agreed with Senator Menendez that the administration ought to have a clear-eyed view regarding Turkey. Yet Blinken does not clearly answer the question regarding the incoming Biden administration’s stance on supporting US sanctions that Congress placed on Turkey in December 2020.

“While we are hopeful, the Biden administration will follow Congress’ lead and properly recognize the Armenian Genocide, we are concerned that Mr. Blinken shied away from publicly supporting the US. sanctions that Congress placed on Turkey in December, 2020,” stated Armenian Council of America Chair, Mr. Sevak Khatchadorian. “We expect the incoming administration to be as forceful in not only condemning Turkey’s reckless behavior throughout the region, but to also take tangible steps in effecting and negating this behavior.”

Senator Menendez stated that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote to confirm Blinken on Monday, January 25, 2021.

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