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Chairman Menendez Leads Hearing on U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Nomination

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Washington, D.C. - "Without accountability, there isn't justice," asserted Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when discussing his concerns about the atrocities committed by Azerbaijan during the nomination hearing today of Kristina Kvien, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, as well as current U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy, who is being considered to serve as the Ambassador of the Russian Federation, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). U.S. Ambassador to Russia Nominee Lynne Tracy Highlights Strength of Democracy in Armenia After recognizing Ambassador Tracy's nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Chairman Menendez outlined the tense relations with Russia and its internal turmoil, recognizing the "high profile and tough job" and asked if she was prepared for it. Citing her experience in the region, Ambassador Tracy said it was a "tremendous honor" to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia since 2019, during a time of "enormous opportunity but of tremendous challenge." "During my [time] we were in a period of active conflict, a war that brought tremendous pressures on our Embassy and on our staff," while at the same time praised Armenia's democracy specifically, reflecting on the "free and fair" 2018 elections when Nikol Pashinyan was elected as Prime Minister, followed by "one of the greatest stress tests that a democracy can endure, a war," in 2020, and still maintaining free and fair elections in 2021.

US Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy, who is nominated for the US Ambassador to the Russian Federation position

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) asked Ambassador Tracy what the perception is of the Armenian people with regards to Russia, President Putin, and the Ukrainian invasion. Ambassador Tracy stated that there is "real concern" among former Soviet countries about the "future of their independence and sovereignty and territorial integrity." In regards to Armenia, Ambassador Tracy stated that "Armenians are saying their previous relationships with Russia are not meeting the needs of Armenia today, and how can the U.S. be more helpful to Armenia as it continues seeking a more democratic and a more secure future." Ambassador Tracy highlighted that the U.S. and Armenia are working together, with the support of Congress, and on a bilateral basis. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) requested that Ambassador Tracy draw on her experience in Armenia in terms of Russia "thriving in neighboring countries with weak rule of law." Ambassador Tracy replied that the United States' investments in Armenia, whether in development, economy or in the people, have been of "great importance," particularly in relation to the "homegrown" democratic elections in 2018. "The [Armenian] people see what Russia represents and they see how the country is run," said Ambassador Tracy. "We can continue to invest in Armenia [and other former Soviet countries] to act as a hedge against the malign model of what Russia represents." Chairman Menendez told Ambassador Tracy that the State Department hearing on the South Caucasus that took place on November 16, 2022, was the "most disappointing hearing I've ever conducted." He asked if she had seen the videos of the execution of Armenian soldiers by Azerbaijan. Ambassador Tracy stated that she had seen the videos and referred to it as "one of the most sickening things I've seen in my life," especially regarding the mutilation and desecration of a female Armenian soldier. She said she reached out to Armenia's Human Rights Ombudsman, Kristina Grigoryan, who has worked on authenticating and documenting the videos. Ambassador Tracy emphasized that she is "focused on accountability" with respect to the execution of Armenian POWs and civilians. When asked by Chairman Menendez as to whom she reported the graphic videos of executed Armenians, Ambassador Tracy stated that she reported them to the State Department. Referring to the November 16, 2022 hearing, Chairman Menendez said that "no one knew about the videos, or in the case of Ambassador Reeker, did know but no one did anything to authenticate it." "We need our ambassadors in places of conflict to be able to pursue what the truth is, so that we as policyholders can then decide what we do about that truth," continued Chairman Menendez. "Without accountability, there isn't justice."

US Ambassador to Armenia nominee Kristina Kvien

US Ambassador to Armenia Nominee Kristina Kvien Commits to Holding Azerbaijan Accountable for Atrocities During the day's second panel, Chairman Menendez stated that Kristina Kvien has been nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia during a challenging moment for the country. "We've seen recent attacks from Azerbaijan, videos of what appear to be war crimes, as well as a longstanding humanitarian crisis brought on the war in Nagorno-Karabakh," stated Chairman Menendez. He continued that he was "incredibly disappointed" by the State Department's responses during the November 16 hearing, and speaking directly to Kvien, said that it is her "responsibility to make sure the American people do not look the other way when we uncover human rights violations and atrocities committed against Armenia. "Armenia is connected to the U.S. by the love and concern of countless Armenian American families," concluded Chairman Menendez in his opening remarks. "This is a diasporan community that is on the edge of hope and peace and the terror of ethnic cleansing." In her opening statement, Ms. Kvien said she "commits to working closely with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Members of Congress to advance U.S. interests in Armenia." "I pledge to work with you to strengthen Armenian's democracy, security, and economy. I would also continue the efforts of my predecessor [Ambassador Lynne Tracy] to support Armenia's anti-corruption initiatives, civil society, independent media, business development, regional integration, and efforts to counter malign influence," said Kvien, who stated that she would also work with Armenians to help "foster an impartial, independent judiciary and to safeguard respect for freedom of expression." Regarding the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Kvien said a peaceful settlement is "essential to a more secure and prosperous future, for Armenia and for the South Caucasus. The U.S. is working through bilateral and multilateral channels to help the sides achieve a peaceful, lasting negotiated settlement of the conflict based on the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act." Kvien said she grew up in Fresno, California, home to one of the largest Armenian diaspora communities in the U.S., and that she learned from her "teachers and friends of Armenian heritage” about the Armenian Genocide and if confirmed would “commit to doing everything in my power to remember the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and to support a peaceful future for Armenians and encourage ongoing normalization discussions between Armenia and Turkey."

As the hearing continued, Chairman Menendez expressed his frustration with the State Department, as they call on "all sides," even when one side is the aggressor, as "Azerbaijan is in Armenia." Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) reiterated the importance of "calling out aggression when we see it." "It was very well-documented in September by independent press sources that Azerbaijan launched attacks and engaged in atrocities," stated Senator Van Hollen. Speaking directly to Ms. Kvien, Senator Van Hollen stated that "in order to be a credible mediator, in my view, you need to at least begin with the facts and to publicly state them. You'll be heading off to a very important country in a very conflicted part of the world, and I hope you'll be able to call out the facts when you see them." Chairman Menendez asked Ms. Kvien, if confirmed, if she would "lead Embassy efforts to support the documentation of alleged atrocities by Azerbaijan committed against Armenians during this recent aggression, which include Azeri forces shooting unarmed Armenians, executing Armenian soldiers, and mutilating a female Armenian soldier." Kvien confirmed she had seen the "horrific videos," and will "do her best to help with any requests the Armenians have to document the videos." Pressing further, Chairman Menendez said he does not want the requests to be from Armenians, but instead for the U.S. to be proactive to make a determination when it comes to important decisions, like the continuous waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act. "We should know whether Azerbaijan is committing these types of actions so we can determine whether Section 907 should be waived," said Chairman Menendez. "I want an Ambassador who will proactively help us determine whether these mutilations and executions are true and to be able to tell the State Department, and this Committee, so then we as policymakers can make a decision. Can I depend upon you to do that?" Ms. Kvien stated that "accountability for crimes of this nature are very important" to her, and she will be sure there is accountability. Kvien also confirmed that she would commit to a needs assessment regarding the 100,000 displaced Armenians as a result of the 2020 War on Artsakh, and the current needs of the people who still reside in the region. Ms. Kvien, who joined the Foreign Service in 1992, has served as an Economics Officer at the Embassy of the United States, Manila, and at the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in Washington, D.C., focusing on European Union and issues related to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). She also served as the United States Mission to the European Union in Brussels as an Economics Officer, from 2001-2005, and then was transferred to the Embassy of the United States, Moscow, where she worked on environment and energy issues. Kvien went on to become Director for EU Affairs, EU Economies and Caspian Energy for Ukraine and Belarus at the United States National Security Council. Most recently, Kvien served at the Embassy of the United States, Paris, prior to her posting to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv in May 2019. "The Assembly commends Chairman Menendez for leading a thorough hearing for both Ambassador Tracy, and nominee Kristina Kvien," said Assembly Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. "Ensuring accountability for the heinous human rights abuses committed by Azerbaijan, strongly supporting Armenia's democracy, and safeguarding security of the Armenian people from the specter of another genocide are fundamental goals we all share," Khaloyan continued. "The Assembly also appreciates Senators Romney, Van Hollen, and Murphy for their remarks regarding Armenia during today's nomination hearing."

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.


NR# 2022-59

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