February 12, 2013 - 10:11 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - In response to a direct inquiry by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), President Obama's nominee to serve as Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel, called for the expansion of U.S.-Armenia defense relations, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
"We would like to thank Chairman Levin for drawing attention, during this especially closely watched Senate confirmation process, to the importance of growth in the U.S.-Armenia defense relationship," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We share Senator Hagel's view that there is much room for the development of these ties, and look forward, should he be confirmed, to engaging with the Department of Defense on this matter."
In response to a written inquiry by Chairman Levin, Senator Hagel explained "The U.S.-Armenia defense relationship is sound. As with all relationships, there is room to grow and areas where we can strengthen our cooperation and partnership." He went on to note that, if confirmed, "I would continue to engage Armenian leaders to strengthen existing areas of engagement and identify new areas of cooperation that support Armenia's defense reforms, especially its peacekeeping brigade, and continue its ability to deploy in coalition operations."
In the days leading up to the Hagel confirmation hearing, ANCA activists across America, including those in Chairman Levin’s state of Michigan, urged their legislators to engage the nominee on a range of issues of concern to the Armenian American community.
Of special concern were statements by Hagel opposing official U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. "What happened in 1915, as one United States Senator, I think the better way to deal with this is to leave it open to historians and others to decide what happened and why," then-Senator Hagel told a group of Armenian reporters during a trip to Armenia in 2005. "The fact is that this region needs to move forward," Hagel added. "We need to find a lasting, just peace between Turkey and Armenia and the other nations of this region. I am not sure that by going back and dealing with that in some way that causes one side or the other to be put in difficult spot, helps move the peace process forward."
Hamparian told Commentary magazine in December that the ANCA objected to the argument that official U.S. recognition of the genocide would hinder peace between Turkey and Armenia. "As much as Erdogan and his allies might like, the ‘lasting, just peace between Turkey and Armenia’ that Chuck Hagel seeks cannot be built on Genocide denial. The U.S. and the international community must set an example by condemning the Armenian Genocide — and speaking out against all genocides, wherever and whenever they occur," said Hamparian.