Sargsyan’s previous visit to Athens took place in 2011, and in 2014 Armenia welcomed the Greek President Karolos Papoulias in Yerevan. On March 14, Sargsyan had a tête-à-tête meeting with Pavlopoulos, discussing a wide range of issues of interstate relations, bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the framework of international organizations. The presidents touched upon the Armenian-Greek partnership in different areas, interparliamentary cooperation, the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, EU-Armenia relations, the process of recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, as well as issues of international importance, e.g. the migration crisis in Europe and the Syrian crisis. Pavlopoulos has formerly been a member of the Armenian-Greek parliamentary Friendship Group.
On March 15, President Sargsyan met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The parties highlighted the importance of deepening cooperation in trade and economy, agriculture, culture, education, health care, tourism, as well as the necessity of encouraging investments and contacts between representatives of business circles. They stressed the role of the Armenian-Greek intergovernmental commission. The 5th session of the intergovernmental commission took place on March 3-4 in Athens. During a press conference on that occasion, the parties stressed the importance of activating ties between business circles in order to upgrade economic ties between the two countries.
Tsipras mentioned the need to bolster Armenian-Greek relations in the context of regional cooperation plans. Considering Armenia’s close relations with Iran, Tsipras assessed the development of Greece-Armenia-Iran cooperation as promising. After the nuclear deal with Iran and sanctions gradually being lifted, new possibilities for Iranian foreign policy arise and in this context such plans seem increasingly promising. During his visit to Yerevan in October 2015, Iran’s Minister of Transport Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi highlighted Iran’s interest in creating a transport corridor in the Black Sea through Armenia and Bulgaria. Iran’s potential interest in the Black Sea region may provide favorable conditions for boosting cooperation between Greece, Armenia and Iran.
In a statement to media, Sargsyan appreciated Greece’s principled position on the condemnation and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In this context, the Armenian president underlined the fact that on September 9, 2014, the Greek Parliament passed a Resolution on the Fight against Racism and Xenophobia, which also criminalized the denial of the Armenian Genocide. Sargsyan noted that in 2015, Armenia’s National Assembly in turn adopted a Declaration on the Condemnation of the Genocides of Greeks and Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire. References to these issues by Greece’s Prime Minister and President later provoked criticism from Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On March 17, Tanju Bilgiç, a spokesperson for Turkey’s MFA, declared that “the statements in question are the product of a pathetic mentality proving that the relations and solidarity between Greece and Armenia is built upon a joint hostility and slander language directed against the Turkish identity.”
As discussions between the official delegations were concluded, following the meeting between Sargsyan and Tsipras, several documents were signed, including a Program of Cooperation in the area of Health Care and Medical Aid for 2016-2018, an Action Plan of Cooperation between the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia and Government of the Hellenic Republic for 2016-2020, and a Program of Cooperation in the area of Education and Research for 2016-2020. During his visit, Sargsyan also met with the President of the Greek Parliament Nikos Voutsis and members of the Armenian diaspora in Greece.
From Athens, the delegation left for Nicosia, Cyprus, where Sargsyan met with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades. The Cypriot President was among the four heads of state (along with François Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Tomislav Nikolić) present at the events dedicated to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial in Yerevan on April 24, 2015. Sargsyan also met with the President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou and Archbishop of All Cyprus Chrysostomos II, as well as members of the Armenian diaspora in Cyprus. During Sargsyan’s visit to Nicosia, several agreements were signed, among them a Program of Cooperation in the Area of Culture, an Action Plan on Cooperation in the Area of Education and Science for 2016-2020, and an Agreement on Mutual Recognition of the Higher Educational Qualification to start and continue education in the higher education institutions of the two countries.
Image attribution: www.ajaratv.ge, accessed on April 6, 2016