Former US Senator Jeff Flake reversed his initial position on Armenian genocide recognition on Tuesday, replying with a “yes” when quizzed by US Senator Bob Menendez before the foreign relations committee that can advance his nomination to be ambassador to Turkey.
President Joe Biden nominated Flake in July to become the next US ambassador to Turkey, a surprise choice as the decision promoted a political appointee rather than a career diplomat.
The Arizonan, who was also known for voting against Armenian Genocide recognition, finally recognised that atrocities perpetrated against the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide.
Flake also praised Washington’s consideration of UN statements on Cyprus, citing recent comments by US officials regarding Varosha as well as affirming the American position against acts that violate Security Council resolutions.
“In the past you voted against resolutions which recognise the genocide. Will you join this body and the administration in reaffirming the Armenian genocide?” Menendez asked.
“Yes,” said Flake.
“If confirmed, will you reiterate that commitment on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day?” the senator pressed on.
“I will,” Flake responded.
On the Cyprus issue, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen sought clear statements from Flake.
“In Cyprus, President Erdogan is going backwards,” Van Hollen told Flake, saying Turkey had retreated from “what had been the agreed-upon approach.”
Van Hollen then asked Flake to state on the record whether he agreed that Erdogan’s actions in Varosha “violated UN Security Council resolutions.”
“Yes, most definitely,” Flake said, adding later on “there is no two-state solution in Cyprus.”
But Menendez also picked apart Flake’s opening statement, telling the ambassadorial candidate that he could see no arms sales to Turkey.
“I must say, I listened to your statement, it is certainly more positive that I would have posited, as it relates to Turkey. I guess that’s the role of a potential ambassador,” Menendez pointed out.
Flake said if confirmed he would “consistently reiterate that disposing of the [Russian-made S-400 missile defence] system is the path to removing CATSAA sanctions” on Turkey, adding he would warn Ankara that any future purchase of Russian weapons would risk triggering further sanctions.
But Flake also said the States should look to encourage Turkey to purchase American defense items “that keep the Turkish military interoperable with NATO.”
“If confirmed, I look forward to working with the Committee to determine what defense trade with Turkey is in the US national interest,” Flake said.
“Certainly, when we talk about arms sales again, as the committee that has jurisdiction over arms sales, I see no arms sales going to Turkey unless there is a dramatic change on the S-400 and moving forward,” the committee chairman added, pointing to recent statements by Erdogan who spoke about plans to buy a second batch of the Russian systems.
Menendez, who was bestowed the Cross of the Order of Makarios III during a visit to Cyprus this summer, was the main architect of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act.
Menendez has said Erdogan’s support for a two-state solution in Cyprus “would be in violation of the UN resolutions.”
In response to this questioning of a potential ambassador, the Turkish Foreign Ministry posted on Twitter “Agreman,” the Turkish word for Agrément, the process of where the home country has to accept the credentials of a new diplomat.
— T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı (@TC_Disisleri) September 28, 2021