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Senate Panel Presses Proposed U.S. Envoy For Clear Explanation Of U.

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  • Senate Panel Presses Proposed U.S. Envoy For Clear Explanation Of U.


    Noyan Tapan
    Armenians Today
    Jun 29 2006

    Relations Committee members George Allen (R-VA) and Norm Coleman (R-MN)
    bombarded U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Designate Richard Hoagland with
    questions about official U.S. complicity in Turkey's campaign of
    Genocide denial, questioning him, during his confirmation hearing,
    regarding his ability to effectively represent the United States in
    Armenia without properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide, reported
    the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

    In the days leading up to June 28 hearing, the Committee's Ranking
    Democrat, Joseph Biden (D-DE), in a strongly worded letter, demanded
    that the Secretary of State answers questions concerning the recall
    of the current U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, before he could
    support the confirmation of his replacement.

    At the hearing, Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), joined with Senators
    Coleman and Allen in sharply criticizing the Administration's refusal
    to speak truthfully on the Armenian Genocide. Senator Boxer, who
    was unable to attend the hearing, submitted written questions to
    Amb. Hoagland.

    The hearing was marked by repeated calls upon Amb. Hoagland to clarify
    the State Department's policy on the Armenian Genocide.

    In his opening remarks, Senator Allen, who chaired the confirmation
    hearing, made specific reference to the Bush Administration's decision
    to recall U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans for referring
    to the deportation and death of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as a
    clear instance of "genocide."

    "Some have expressed concern that Ambassador Evans has been relieved
    of his duties as a result of references to the Armenian Genocide,"
    stated Sen. Allen.

    "I do not know this to be true, but will say that many of my colleagues
    and I refer to the tragic events of 1915 as genocide and have strongly
    encouraged the President to do so as well. I hope that in the future
    the Administration will recognize this terrible event for what it
    was - genocide."

    The Virginia Senator - and potential 2008 Presidential candidate -
    then went on to question Amb. Hoagland about the instructions he
    has received about discussing the Armenian Genocide, as well as
    the instructions he intends to issue to his Embassy staff on this
    matter. In response, Amb. Hoagland stated that, "the President has
    said, this is a tragedy for all humanity and one that the world must
    never forget." He went on to note that he had not received "any kind
    of written instruction about this. I simply studied the policy, I
    studied the background papers on the policy, I know the policy and
    my responsibility is to support the president."

    Amb. Hoagland noted on a number of occasions during the hearing
    that, as a Foreign Service officer who has dealt with the Caucasus,
    he has visited the memorial to victims in Armenia in Yerevan, and
    would do so again, should he be confirmed. He added, however, that
    he was against "getting stuck in the past" and wanted to focus on
    "living in the future."

    Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman noted that, "you can't look to
    the future if you deny your past." Sen. Coleman was relentless but
    respectful in his questioning, stating that, "the State Department has
    put you in a difficult position. It is almost absurd for you to sit
    here and you can't utter the word 'genocide.' The President's statement
    that he utters every year is a description of genocide. One of the
    things I was proud about the State Department is when we talk about
    the Genocide in Sudan - it's genocide what's happening in Darfur."

    Senator Coleman raised the 2000 statement by then Governor George Bush
    that, "Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies
    comprehension," asking Amb. Hoagland, "do you agree or disagree
    with that statement." Amb. Hoagland avoided directly answering the
    question, noting instead: "I fully agree that events occurred in 1915
    and following were of historic proportion.

    As I said, they were documented, they were horrifying. As we heard
    from Senator Sarbanes earlier on - 'hundreds of valleys devastated,'
    'no family untouched'. It was historic, it was a tragedy."

    When asked by Senator Coleman why he thought the State Department
    barred the use of the term "Armenian Genocide," Amb. Hoagland dodged
    the question, stating: "I am very much encouraged by the fact that
    there are senior officials in Yerevan and Ankara and elsewhere
    who do like to bring closure to that period of history. They are
    looking for new ways of doing it. There are talks of commissions -
    the truth and reconciliation commission concept is being explored
    in quiet conversations. If we could I would very much like to meet
    with senior officials in Ankara and Baku because I think that could
    be helpful - it would help me understand better how to play a role
    of reconciliatory and a peacemaking role."

    In his comments, Senator Coleman stressed the theme that a
    U.S. Ambassador to Armenia who does not recognize the Armenian Genocide
    lacks credibility. He noted that, "I am of the Jewish faith. I cannot
    imagine an Ambassador to Israel being effective without talking about
    the Holocaust. I am not sure how we can continue to have Ambassadors
    to Armenia who can be effective, unless they give recognition to
    the Genocide."

    Senator Sarbanes, in his opening remarks, expressed "regret that we
    were called to hold this hearing today, in part to replace a career
    Ambassador prior to the completion of a three year tour of duty. We
    would not be in this situation, if the Administration would simply
    acknowledge a plain historical truth that 91 years ago, the world
    witnessed the first Genocide of the 21st century - the Armenian
    Genocide." Sen. Sarbanes spoke eloquently about the U.S. Foreign
    service officers who witnessed the Armenian Genocide in 1915, and
    whose observations remain a permanent part of the U.S. archives.

    Senator Barbara Boxer, who was not able to attend the
    hearing, submitted remarks and detailed written questions to
    Amb. Hoagland. Noting Amb. Evans' statement in February 2005, properly
    characterizing the Armenian Genocide as "genocide," Sen. Boxer stated,
    "I agree with Ambassador Evans' statement. Not only should we not play
    word games with a matter as serious as genocide, we should also not
    play political games with issues of genocide." The Senator went on
    to express concern "that the controversy surrounding Ambassador Evans
    will needlessly harm U.S.-Armenian relations. I understand that there
    are protests in front of the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan today over the
    recall of Ambassador of Evans. How would you respond to this concern?"

    Sen. Boxer's reference was to a candle-light vigil held today in
    Yerevan by hundreds of human rights activists during the Senate
    confirmation hearing, as part of the "Yellow Ribbon Campaign"
    protesting the firing the Amb. Evans.

    On April 24th, tens of thousands had tied yellow ribbons in solidarity
    with the U.S. Ambassador, who had stood with the Armenian people in
    honoring the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

    In response to questions on the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades of
    Armenia and the proposed Kars, Tbilisi, Baku railroad, Amb. Hoagland
    was adamant about the Administration's decision not to fund any
    project that would hinder regional integration and cooperation. When
    asked about efforts to maintain military aid parity to Armenia and
    Azerbaijan, Amb. Hoagland would not commit to equal allocations
    of military aid to both countries. Sen. Allen reminded the nominee
    that the Senate plays a central role in ensuring military aid parity
    and that he would continue to work hard to ensure the aid balance
    is maintained.

    In his closing comments, Senator Allen urged Ambassador-designate
    Hoagland "to be respectful to Armenian Americans and also to Armenians,
    recognizing their heritage, their history, their sensitivities."

    "We appreciate the leadership of Senators Allen, Coleman and Sarbanes
    in pressing hard for a detailed explanation of the U.S. policy on
    the Armenian Genocide - and commend Senator Biden for his principled
    demand that the Senate receive clear answers on this issue from
    the State Department before moving ahead with the nomination of a
    new envoy to Yerevan," said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. "We were
    deeply disappointed that, in response to these legitimate inquiries,
    Ambassador-designate Hoagland - apparently at the direction of
    his superiors in the State Department - limited his responses to a
    series of unresponsive evasions and euphemisms intended to obscure -
    not explain - the U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide."

    "We have said from the start - and believe even more firmly today -
    that the U.S. Senate cannot, in good conscience, approve the nomination
    of a new ambassador to Armenia until the circumstances of the current
    envoy's controversial firing - including a thorough description of
    the U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide - are fully, officially and
    openly explained to Congress and the American people," said Hachikian.