Senator Kirk presses for additional scrutiny of U.S. Ambassador to Turkey nominee

With the Senate scheduled to resume session on September 8th, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) has submitted five pointed questions to U.S. Ambassador to Turkey nominee John Bass in order to bring much-needed clarity to U.S. policy on both the Armenian Genocide and the growing movement to secure Turkey’s return of stolen Christian churches and religious properties, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“We want to thank Senator Kirk for shining much-needed sunlight on Ambassador-designate Bass’s nomination and, more broadly, for requiring that the Administration provide clear responses to simple, straightforward questions about the Armenian Genocide and the return of stolen Christian church properties by Turkey,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “We look forward to sharing the responses to Senator Kirk’s questions as soon as they are made publicly available.”

In July, the ANCA welcomed the U.S. Senate’s decision to recess for August without confirming Ambassador-designate Bass as a meaningful opportunity for both Senators and American civil society to review both his positions as well as the broader issues rapidly reshaping the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

In his formal testimony, Ambassador Designate Bass used inaccurate and offensive euphemisms, such as “shared history,” to avoid properly characterizing the Armenian Genocide, and praised Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s cynical repacking of genocide denial in his April 23rd “condolence” open letter to Armenians.

In addition to Senator Kirk, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) had questioned Ambassador Bass on U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s ongoing blockade of Armenia and efforts to secure the return of confiscated Christian holy sites from Turkey.

Sen. Mark Kirk: Questions for the Record to
The Honorable John Bass, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to the Republic of Turkey

During your testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, 2014, you stated:  “The U.S. government acknowledges as historical fact and mourns that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire.”

a) Can you clarify and expand on your statement to clearly indicate the party or parties responsible for perpetrating the murder of 1.5 million Armenians?

b) Would you agree with the European Union and 11 of our NATO allies, all of which have officially designated these atrocities as the Armenian Genocide?

c) As Ambassador, would you support the rights of the heirs of those killed during the Armenian Genocide to seek compensation from the Republic of Turkey?

During your testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 15, 2014, you stated: “If confirmed, I will encourage the Turkish government to follow through on the return of religious minority properties and to take additional steps to promote religious freedom, such as allowing more religious communities to own property, register their places of worship, and train clergy.”

a) Could you expand and clarify on what specific actions you plan to undertake?  Will you raise this issue at the highest levels of the Turkish government?

b) Are you satisfied with the actions the State Department and our Embassy in Ankara has taken to date to convince Turkey to restore Christian religious property to its rightful owners?

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