WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama nominated long-time Armenian-American issues supporter, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), as his next secretary of state, with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) widely considered to take his place as the next chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We welcome President Obama’s nomination of Senator Kerry, a legislator with a three decade-long record of support for Armenia and a legacy of advocacy for the foreign policy priorities of Armenian-Americans, as our nation’s next secretary of state,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We look forward to continuing to work constructively with Senator Kerry, now in his new role at the Department of State, as we seek to lift Turkey’s gag-rule on American recognition of the Armenian Genocide, strengthen U.S.-Armenia ties, and put in place freedom-based solutions that provide security to the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh.”
Kerry was first elected to the Senate in 1984. He succeeded now-Vice President Joe Biden as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. Over the years, Kerry has been a strong advocate for Congressional affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, co-sponsoring many resolutions to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial of this still unpunished crime. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he pressed ambassadorial nominee to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, about U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s blockade of Armenia, and the Turkey-Armenia protocols. He is not currently a co-sponsor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
In the early 1990’s, Kerry was a vocal leader in support of Senate adoption of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which restricted U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan until it lifted its blockades and stopped its aggression against Armenia and Karabagh. Earlier this year, Chairman Kerry was “shocked and appalled” at Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s pardon, praise, and promotion of convicted Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov. “This needlessly provocative act endangers the fragile peace between these countries and damages the government of Azerbaijan’s credibility,” he noted.
The ANCA had endorsed Kerry in his bid for the presidency in 2004 against Republican incumbent President George W. Bush.
Kerry will likely be succeeded by Sen. Robert Menendez as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez has been an outspoken advocate for U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide since his years in the House of Representatives. He is the lead sponsor for the Senate Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.399) introduced earlier this year. Menendez was joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in blocking the nomination of Dick Hoagland, President George W. Bush’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to Armenia, after Hoagland denied the Armenian Genocide during his Senate confirmation process. Later, Menendez and Boxer successfully opposed the nomination of U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza, expressing concerns about his serious shortcomings in his track record as a senior diplomat dealing with the Caucasus.
Other changes in the Senate Committee leadership include Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s selection to serve as chairwoman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, taking over the position from Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, who passed away earlier this month.