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Armenian Expert: Egyptian-Armenian Relations Evolving Dynamically & Successfully

Wed 25 Jan 2023 | 02:30 PM
By Ahmad El-Assasy

Dr. Araks Pashayan, Specialist in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, Head of the Department of International Relations, National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Armenia said that a comprehensive review of Armenia-Egypt relations was carried out as thirty years have already passed that the countries are cooperating.

"I would like to note that our bilateral relations are evolving dynamically and successfully. But there are a lot of unused opportunities. Armenia-Egypt relations have a huge potential for development. Armenia has great interest in Egypt as a tourist country," she added.

"For our citizens, Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh are among the most popular tourist destinations. I am sure that the Egyptians may also be interested in Armenia. In our country there is a great interest towards Arab culture and Arabic language. There are centers of Arabic studies in Armenia, and Arabic language is taught in various Armenian universities."

Pashayan noted that Many students from Armenia had the opportunity to study in Egypt, and a number of specialists in different fields took training courses in Egypt.

Although Armenia is located in the South Caucasus, it is historically a part of the Greater Middle East. Armenians were the most important component of the Middle Eastern mosaic. We have had stable cross-cultural communication with the countries and peoples of the region.

"The Armenian element had a very important involvement in the Egyptian environment in various spheres: military, political, commercial, economic, cultural, etc. The proof of that is the contribution of the Armenian vazirs, the founder of the Fatimid dynasty Badr Al-Jamali, his son Afdal and other Armenian figures to the state building in Egypt," she said.

"Today, it is impossible to walk around Old Cairo without admiring the contribution of Badr al-Jamali. The medieval Arab historian Taki ad-Din Ahmad Ibn Ali Makrizi is one of the authors who repeatedly referred to the Armenians of Egypt and ranked the Armenian community among exemplary communities."

"He referred to the role of Armenians in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. The contribution of Armenians to the Egyptian state administration system in the second half of the 19 th century is also noteworthy. The first prime minister of Egypt in 1878-1879 was Nubar Nubaryan /Nubar Pasha/, and Boghos Yusufyan, who was Muhammad Ali's secretary, held the position of Minister of Trade and Foreign Affairs."

She confirmed that Armenians also had a tangible role in spreading the Arab national cultural awakening - Nahda, and enlightenment ideas, in which Egypt was the leader as the modernization of the Arab world started from Egypt.

"After the Armenian Genocide in 1915, with the support of the Egyptian government, Armenian exiles settled in the country and gave new charges to the Armenian community. In the first half of the twentieth century, Egypt was also the center of the development of Armenian public and political thought, and the Armenian culture, as well."

Pashayan explained the Armenian community in Egypt has gone through a long way of transformation. The Armenian presence in Egypt actually demonstrates the tolerant and friendly attitude of the Egyptian government and society towards ethno-religious minorities, and is a brilliant example of mutually beneficial cooperation.

"Today, Armenians are known more in Egypt than the Republic of Armenia. In turn, Armenia is greatly interested in strengthening of Egypt’s regional role and development of Egyptian Armenian community, which is an important bridge in Armenia-Egypt relations."

"Today's world is not the same as before. Geopolitical realities, value systems, moral and ethical principles are being transformed before our eyes. I think that more than ever, Armenia and Egypt need each other, sector specialists should always be in contact, exchange experience, we should find joint solutions to the problems where we have common interests or already accumulated experience of cooperation."

The Armenian expert said people to people contacts, public and scientific diplomacy are important, as well. I want us to be consistent in this cooperation. Egypt is one of the most leading and influential states in the Middle East and the Arab world, which has played a tangible role in ensuring the security system of the region for decades. It was and is the cultural center of the Arab world, an influential member of regional organizations, including the League of Arab States.

"From Yerevan, we follow the most important processes taking place in the Arab world, particularly the geopolitical activation of the Gulf countries. From the perspective of regional security, Egypt's close cooperation with Armenia's friendly countries, like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as the improvement of relations with Qatar, is important.

She said that cooperation with a prestigious country like Egypt is in the interest of Armenia. On the other hand, in the South Caucasus, in behalf of Yerevan, Cairo has a reliable and friendly partner.

"First of all, I would like to mention that Armenia highly values Egypt's balanced position regarding the peaceful settlement of the Artsakh /Nagorno-Karabakh/ conflict. Armenia has a stable political dialogue with Egypt, at a fairly high level. The two states beneficially cooperate within the framework of international organizations, too. Diplomatic corps are also working effectively. It can be said that Armenia and Egypt are natural allies. I think that efforts should not be spared for Armenia-Egypt cooperation." "The visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to Armenia can be said to be a historic event. He is the first president of Egypt to visit our country. Although Armenian high-ranking officials visited Cairo, but there was no presidential visit from Egypt. I sincerely hope that the Egyptian presidents visit would give new impetus to the development and expansion of our biletral reltions, taking into account the historical and cultural affinities between the two nations.

There are no obstacles, no political problems in Armenia-Egypt relations."

Armenia is experiencing the most difficult period since the independence, 1991. The reason is the 2020 Artsakh war, the heavy defeat of Armenia, the occupation of some parts of the territories of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, the existence of a large number of refugees in Armenia, the unresolved issue of Artsakh, etc. Currently, there is great pressure on Armenia from Azerbaijan and Turkey, which are acting synchronously," she said.

"Azerbaijan is waging a creeping war against Armenia, provoking border disputes and small-scale aggressions. After the 44-day war, there are still new victims in Armenia, both among the military and the civilian population. Baku forces Armenia to sign a peace treaty, threatening to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, which is unacceptable for the Armenian side."

"Armenians cannot live safely in Azerbaijan because of Ilham Aliyev's xenophobic and racist policy towards Armenians. Today, many parts of the sovereign state of Armenia are occupied by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan demands an extra-territorial corridor from Armenia (the so-called "Zangezur Corridor") to connect with the autonomous republic of Nakhichevan."

"Armenia has offered many other options to Azerbaijan. As Turkey, he plans to use that corridor in its pan-Turkic plans to establish direct contacts with the Central Asian republics and beyond. On the other hand, Russia, which is currently the guarantor of Artsakh's security, is also interested in establishing control over the corridor. Armenia is eager to settle the problems by diplomatic means."

"Now everything depends on Azerbaijan. Currently, Artsakh is under siege by Baku. 120,000 people, of which 30.000 are children, are deprived of gas, electricity, food, and basic necessities during this winter time. This is a humanitarian crisis to which the world must respond adequately and quickly."

"On the other hand, Azerbaijan continues to manipulate the idea of international Islamic solidarity and the platform of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discredit Armenia. I want the Muslim world to know correct information about the Artsakh conflict. I think that the anti-Armenian attitude of the Islamic Cooperation Օrganization is not impartial and does not bring honour to the organization.

So, there are both obstacles and opportunities for Armenia in the Middle East. In this case, pro-active policy of Armenia in the Arab and Middle Eastern direction, is imperative for Yerevan."