Interview with the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia -
By Francois-Pierre Cartoland
The Prince Arthur Herald
Bilateral relations between Canada and Armenia were established immediately after the latter’s independence in 1991. Diplomacy officially began on January 31 1992 and three years later, Armenia opened an Embassy in Ottawa. While Canada doesn’t operate an Embassy in Yerevan, the Canadian Ambassador to Russia His Excellency John Kur is accredited to Armenia. Since the 1990s, Canada and Armenia have shared a close bond that is continuously strengthening. To learn more about this unique and fascinating relationship, I interviewed His Excellency Armen Yeganian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Canada.
Q. What is the state of relations between our two countries?
A. Armenia and Canada hold a perfect record in regards to bilateral diplomatic relations. In more than two decades of friendship, our two countries have not experienced any problems or litigations. On the contrary, we have supported each other mutually to the fullest extent in many fields. For example, Canada unconditionally supported Armenia’s membership application to the “Organisation internationale de la Francophonie” (OIF), from observer state in 2006 to associate member in 2008, and then full member in October 2012. Armenia is proud to be part of OIF as it shares many common values and holds more than 400 events annually that showcase its link with the Francophonie in education, arts, cultures, etc.
Furthermore, our bilateral relations are continually enhanced through three other factors. Firstly, the parliamentary friendship groups in both governments are vibrantly engaged in maintaining parliamentary diplomacy and a good channel of communications. Secondly, the Armenian Diaspora in Canada acts as a bridge between our nations. Although small in size, its high level of organisation helps conduct business and exchanges. Thirdly, Armenia participates regularly in peacekeeping missions – having troops currently deployed in Afghanistan and Kosovo – and in many multilateral programs that promote peace and stability such as NATO’s “Partnership for Peace”. Through this link, Armenia has created good relations with many Western countries, including Canada.
Q. Why is our friendship so important?
A. Canada has a good track record on democracy and human rights. Those issues were new to Armenia when independence was obtained in the early 90s. To distance ourselves from the Soviet era, it was very important to partner with countries like Canada and acquire experience, assistance, and friendships from the democratic world. Armenia’s goal, then and now, is to build a very strong democratic society. Yerevan has had great success compared to other countries in the region. I thus feel that it is necessary to continue working with Canada on all levels to fill the gaps left by the Soviet Union.
Q. What then are the main priorities of Armenia’s foreign policy in Canada? What is your Embassy’s role in furthering it?
A. With such great political relations and cooperation, we must put more emphasis on trade. Canadian mining companies as well as other resource-oriented industries have succeeded in working profitably in Armenia. There have also been several successful joint-ventures, including Armenian specialists working on Blackberry. Currently, trade figures are not huge but foundations are solid and there are great perspectives in the future.
Thus, our embassy is at work every day promoting trade as well as cultural ties and much more. To this end, I was privileged to visit half of the provinces with the aim of expanding our networks with different provincial governments and organisations. Through this work, our embassy connects the dots between Canadian and Armenian partners.
Q. What steps should be taken to enhance our bilateral relations?
A. First, I would like to see a Canadian embassy in Yerevan. This would expedite communications as well as facilitate political and diplomatic aspects of our bilateral relations. Second, a growth in trade is desirable. Armenian companies can and should be partners to more Canadian ones. Did you know that Armenia is rapidly becoming a hub in the diamond/jewelry industry? Armenia is also on track to become a regional leader in the spirits industry, producing high quality cognac and wine. Consequently, I see a natural fit between us in certain areas, such as Quebec’s mining industry. Third, town twinning could be expanded across Canada as it will serve to bolster trade and cultural relations.
Last, we must continue spreading knowledge about the Armenian Genocide and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). While the Genocide is already recognised by the Canadian government, some provincial governments (including Quebec), and major cities (including Montreal), the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is less known. This issue is about human rights. It is not a territorial, racial or religious problem. The Armenian-majority living in Azeri-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh did not have equal rights. Their region was the most underdeveloped in Azerbaijan. Since attaining independence in 1991, the citizens of the NKR have enjoyed a fully democratic, self-sufficient society. While pursuing peaceful negotiations with Azerbaijan, we must continue to uphold the basic human rights of the citizens of the NKR.
For further information, please visit the Armenian Embassy’s website.
The Prince Arthur Herald