WASHINGTON, DC – Responding to a groundswell of protest from Armenian Americans, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Robert Pearson today distanced himself from offensive comments regarding the Armenian Genocide which had been attributed to him by a major Turkish newspaper, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a January 25th article in one of Turkey’s largest daily newspapers, Hurriyet, the Ambassador was quoted as comparing the Armenian Genocide to a fictional event, specifically likening the first Genocide of the 20th century to a sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object. The article (Armenian Question is Like a UFO) written by Ayten Serin, had quoted the Ambassador as saying that, “the Armenian Genocide is like the rumors of flying objects. ‘Some say I saw a flying object, and some say I did not see it. In reality, there are no flying objects, and the Armenian Question is similar to this.'”
Amb. Pearson came to the attention of Armenian Americans in October of last year, when he flew to Washington from Ankara, where he had newly begun his duties as U.S. ambassador, to testify before the U.S. Congress against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
In response to concerns raised by Armenian Americans and others opposed to Armenian Genocide denial, Amb. Pearson issued the following statement:
Clarification of Remarks to Turkish Press Reported on January 25th
I want to address the misinterpretation of comments that were reported in the Turkish press on January 25th during an official event in Istanbul. I was asked to comment on whether there would be efforts in Congress to introduce legislation recognizing the tragic events that befell the Armenian people during World War I. I indicated that it would not be productive to speculate about any such possible legislation, underscoring that it was more important to support efforts by Turkey and Armenia to work together to improve their relations.
“Sadly, the State Department’s shameful complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide has fostered an environment in which a senior U.S. diplomat can be misquoted as making patently hateful comments in a major newspaper and apparently not feel the need to issue a clarification or correction until inundated with calls, faxes, and emails from concerned American citizens,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are hopeful that the Ambassador will now take immediate and concrete steps to set the record straight by publicly demanding that Hurriyet print both a correction and his full statement. It is vitally important that all those who may have read the misrepresentation of his comments – in Hurriyet or elsewhere – know that these highly offensive remarks do not represent the policy of the United States Government.”
In the days following the Hurriyet article, the ANCA organized a grassroots campaign calling for a clarification from the State Department. In the wake of the Ambassador’s statement, today, Armenian Americans are encouraged to continue inquiring as to whether Amb. Pearson has taken additional steps to publicly distance himself and the American government from the comments he has indicated were falsely attributed to him, including having Hurriyet print a full correction.