Armenia wants Israel to halt arms sales to its enemy Azerbaijan but is not making it a condition for improving ties with Jerusalem, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigor Hovhannisyan said on Tuesday.
Hovhannisyan, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, said Armenia is considering opening an embassy in Israel in order to take ties between the two countries to the “next level.” It is not, however, considering opening that embassy in Jerusalem.
“For a small country like Armenia, it is very difficult to make major departures from a more traditional stance without provoking major reactions,” he said. “For the time being there is no change in the Armenian approach about where the would-be embassy should be, but fundamentally I would not focus on that. The important thing is to gear-up the relationship.”
Hovhannisyan, who took over his position two months ago, is leading an Armenian delegation for a political dialogue with the Foreign Ministry.
He said that while Armenia would like to see Israel reciprocate by opening an embassy in Yerevan, this would not be a prerequisite to opening an Armenian embassy in Israel. The two countries are represented in each other’s country by non-resident ambassadors.
Regarding reports about Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan, the Armenian diplomat said his country would “welcome a situation” where Israel would do as the US and most European countries have done and not sell arms to either Armenia or Azerbaijan. The two countries are in an ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Hovhannisyan said there was obviously no military solution to the conflict, only a political one, and selling arms to Azerbaijan only fuels an arms race. He said that Armenia wants its friends to know that selling arms to Azerbaijan is “beyond a simple business transaction, and has consequences.”
“We are not a very wealthy country, and we have to set aside a sizable part of our GDP to counter every time Azerbaijan gets their gadgets in Israel,” he said.
He added, however, that Armenia “does not exclude the possibility for us as well to cooperate with the Israeli defense sector.”
This is not a precondition for improved ties, Hovhannisyan said, “since we know some other third countries also do the same.”
Hovhannissian also said that his country is not conditioning closer ties with Israel on its recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
“We know that geopolitical aspirations often interfere with moral imperatives,” Hovhannisyan said. “And we also sometimes have to deal with that.”
The diplomat said that while Armenia would welcome the “recognition of the historic fact of what the Armenian people had to go through, it is not a precondition to us to develop closer ties with Israel.”
Asked whether he was disappointed that Israel has not recognized the Armenian Genocide, he distinguished between his own personal opinion and that of the foreign ministry.
As the “offspring of refugees who survived the genocide,” Hovhannisyan said he was personally disappointed, though “that is not the position of the foreign ministry or the government.”
At the same time, he said that in the more than 25 years of Armenian independence from the Soviet Union, “the pace of recognition has been impressive,” with “thousands of thousands of regional governments” and some 40 countries having done so.