A senior pro-government lawmaker in Yerevan has called for the expansion of Armenia’s relations with Israel and spoken of similar challenges facing the Armenian and Jewish peoples.
Artak Zakarian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, urged closer ties between the two nations as he met with Israel’s Jerusalem-based ambassador to Armenia, Shmuel Meirom, late on Wednesday.
The parliament’s press office quoted Zakarian as telling Meirom that while the Armenian-Israeli relationship is “good” at present it needs new “possibilities of further improvement, especially in the political, economic and humanitarian fields.” “Artak Zakarian pointed out that the destinies as well as current problems of the Armenian and Jewish peoples are similar,” it said in a statement.
According to the office, Meirom passed on to Zakarian a message from Yisrael Hasson, the chairman of a newly formed Israeli parliamentary group promoting closer ties with Armenia. Zakarian, who is a senior member of the ruling Republican Party, heads a similar group in the Armenian parliament.
The statement added that the two men also discussed recent developments in the Middle East, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkish-Armenian relations.
Relations between Armenia and Israel have been less than cordial ever since the Soviet collapse, reflecting their sometimes conflicting geopolitical priorities. Armenia has maintained a warm rapport with Iran to ease its geographic isolation, while Israel has pursued strategic cooperation with Turkey to counter its long-running feud with the Arab world.
More importantly, Armenia has been worried in recent years about Israel’s growing military cooperation with its arch-foe, Azerbaijan. Israeli defense officials confirmed last year a reported deal to sell Azerbaijan unmanned military aircraft, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion.
The Azerbaijani military already possesses Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). One such drone was apparently shot down by Armenian forces while flying a reconnaissance mission over Nagorno-Karabakh two years ago.
Even so, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian told Israel’s visiting Agriculture Minister Orit Noked in April 2012 that Yerevan is “interested” in closer ties with the Jewish state. Noked’s talks marked a rare visit to Armenia by an Israeli cabinet member.
Armenian leaders’ trips to Israel have also been uncommon. The two states still have no embassies in each other’s capitals.