WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-NJ), has delayed congressional confirmation of a diplomat nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next US ambassador to Armenia.
The nominee, John Heffern, had his first confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee two weeks ago. The committee was scheduled to continue the consideration of his candidacy late last Tuesday.
The discussion was postponed until the next committee meeting, expected in September, at the request of Menendez.
The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) quoted Menendez as telling its leaders that he needs more time to review Heffern’s answers to his questions regarding the World War I-era slaughter of some 1.5 millions Armenians in Ottoman Empire. The AAA said the lawmaker “remains troubled by the administration’s wordsmithing regarding US affirmation and recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”
Heffern refused to describe the massacres as genocide during the July 13 committee hearing. He said “the characterization of those events is a policy decision that is made by the president of the United States and that policy is enunciated in his April 24 Remembrance Day statement.”
Obama declined to use the word genocide in that statement, contrary to his promises given to the influential Armenian-American community during the last US presidential race.