Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias called for “strategic partnership” between Greece and Armenia at the start of an official visit to Yerevan on Thursday.
“We have always been brotherly nations,” Kotzias was reported to tell Prime Minister Karen Karapetian.
“My visit has a single purpose: we need to establish strategic partnership,” he said, according to an Armenian government statement.
“Our friendly relations are at a very high level, but we are interested in giving them a new quality,” Karapetian said, for his part. Armenia and Greece should reinforce their warm political rapport with much closer commercial ties, he said.
The two nations have had more advanced cooperation in the area of defense. More than 200 Armenian cadets and army officers have been trained in Greek military academies over the past two decades. The Greek military has also provided assistance to an Armenian army brigade that contributes troops to NATO-led peacekeeping missions abroad.
Kotzias discussed bilateral military ties at a separate meeting with Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, he said the Greek government remains committed to “implementing various defense programs with Armenia.”
A ministry statement said the two men discussed ways of “neutralizing challenges” in the region and agreed to “continue joint efforts to support each other’s positions on international platforms.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras praised his country’s “strong historical, cultural and spiritual bonds” with Armenia and called for their further strengthening when he met with President Serzh Sarkisian in Athens a year ago. Tsipras spoke of Greeks’ and Armenians’ “history of suffering and persecution,” saying that both peoples were victims of genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during World War One.
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos likewise told Sarkisian that “at the beginning of the 20th century the two peoples endured tragic moments for the same reason.”
Turkey condemned those statements. “Solidarity between Greece and Armenia is built upon a joint hostility and slander language directed against the Turkish identity,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman charged in March 2016.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry dismissed the Turkish criticism. “Making denialism the pivot of state policy does not rid Turkey of the responsibility to face its own history,” it said.
Greece officially recognized the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide in 1999. In 2014, it also enacted a law making it a crime to publicly deny this and other genocides.
The Armenian parliament, for its part, unanimously passed in 2015 a resolution condemning “the genocide of Greeks and Assyrians perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1923.”