Khachatourian: Yovanovitch Evades the Community

A patronizing tone, the dodging of questions, and the banning of cameras from public events highlighted Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s tour of Armenian communities, which culminates in Washington on June 30.

Perhaps the clearest message coming from Yovanovitch was that President Obama’s April 24 statement outlines U.S. policy and there was nothing more to add. She also insisted that she recognizes the frustration and anger of the Armenian American community vis-à-vis Obama’s broken promise to recognize the genocide, and pledged she would take that message back to Washington with her.

In her meetings with Armenian American communities on the east and west coasts, Yovanovitch outlined U.S. policy toward Armenia. The U.S., she said, was working hard on assisting Armenia to become economically independent and to strengthen its democratic institutions and civil society. She also voiced support for the so-called “roadmap” agreement and the OSCE Minsk Group-led effort to find a lasting solution to the Karabagh conflict.

She reiterated earlier statements made in Yerevan that the disparity in the Obama Administration’s proposed military budget for Armenia and Azerbaijan was aimed at bolstering U.S. interests in the Caspian basin, which include counter-proliferation, counter-narcotics, and counter-terrorism.

Beyond the simple recitation of U.S. policy positions that are already widely available across the internet, she brought nothing new to a community eager for honest discourse.  Nor did she make herself available for any detailed questioning on these topics of widespread concern, as is the norm for public officials in American civic life.

One questions the sincerity of her stated eagerness to meet and discuss issues with the community when at every event television cameras were barred from taping the talks. For someone who claimed that the U.S. was “bolstering democracy” in Armenia, the ban placed on cameras and the lukewarm treatment of the press at a conference on June 26 in Glendale signaled the ambassador’s unwillingness to foster the administration’s stated policy of transparency and openness.

She explained that since she was making similar presentations in different parts of the country, she did not want her message to get out before she could deliver it. She even went on to say that she did not want her message to wind up on YouTube.

At the press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Glendale, Yovanovitch also dodged questions about the genocide and was more comfortable answering questions about economic development and what the U.S. was doing to benefit Armenia. It lasted 20 minutes and the press was brushed off.

Her decision to exclude cameras deprived the community from hearing her message and her response to the questions raised on the evening of June 26—by around 350 community members who had gathered at the public event organized by the Western Prelacy at Ferrahian’s Avedissian hall. The same was the case the evening before at a gathering at the Diocese.

Through her remarks and actions, Yovanovitch only managed to further alienate the community from their government here in the U.S. By underestimating the intelligence of the community and blatantly banning the press from events, Yovanovitch demonstrated that she and the administration were not interested in or eager to foster dialogue with the Armenian American community.

The community deserves answers to its myriad of questions, and had fully expected to receive them during Yovanovitch’s visit. Instead, they received an education on how to stage an ambassadorial visit that bills itself as open, but in practice undermines the very values we should be advancing both here and abroad, namely, transparency, accountability, and good governance.

Faced with legitimate questions and the prospect of a two-way dialogue and real public scrutiny, it seems she quickly reverted to the very types of behavior she herself has criticized in Armenia.

We urge our readers to contact the U.S. Embassy in Armenia at [email protected].

5 Comments

  1. I don’t trust a word coming out of Yovanovitch’s mouth. As far as I’m concerned she’s full of hot air and takes us for fools. If Obama and the rest of the backstabbers thought she would be able to prance through our communities in a tactfully choreographed PR stunt and cool heads amongst our leaders they thought wrong.
    Yovanovitch is lucky we didn’t start throwing rotten tomatoes at her! Perhaps she should take that message back to Washington with her as well.
    Frankly, we’re probably better off as a community without her. I personally would rather not have her eyes or ears anywhere near our communities as she may be getting more from us then we are from her…

  2. Press coverage was banned???  It appears the Ambassador has lost her sense of direction and is taking cues from the Iranian dictatorship, rather than American democracy.

  3. Yovanovitch is a distraction. Obama and the State Department put her in place to keep our community preoccupied. She’s the official buffer zone between our community and the State Department that keeps heat away from the people that have power. She’s essentially the punching bag our community has at its disposal to vent our frustration on. Her job is to smile in the face of this anger and keep us quiet by reassuring our community that everything will be fine.
    I agree with CK and Levon, Yovanovitch is a puppet. Why are we wasting our time with her when we could be spending precious time pressuring the people behind the scenes that actually pull her strings????????

  4. I believe at least one person was taping at her first stop in Boston, but they asked that any recordings be not made public until after July 4th (such as on youtube). The given excuse was “she would like to address the communities herself.” In the case of Glendale, I think things were going to be the most heated of all meetings. That’s probably why. Or they may have decided halfway through or at least after Boston that given the heated meetings no taping should be allowed.
    As for the puppet and similiar comments, she’s an ambassador, I don’t think she can independently implement foreign policy. She has to either toe the line or like Evans do the brave and just thing.

  5. Another take on her visit is that the purpose of the visits was just a cover to guage the Armenain-American community post april24. The purpose of the visit, to foster programs within the US-diaspora to help Armenia sounded week.
    Unfortunately at the same time Armenia does need help through programs and there needs to be reforms. March 1st was awefull and gives the US the opportunity to use against Armenia.

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