The British government has appointed an ethnic Armenian diplomat as the United Kingdom’s new ambassador to Armenia.
A government statement released on Monday said Alan Gogbashian will replace Judith Farnworth, a fellow diplomat who has served as British ambassador in Yerevan for the last four years.
Gogbashian has headed various divisions at the British Foreign Office since 2014. He was Britain’s deputy head of mission in Morocco from 2011-2014.
The office of Zareh Sinanyan, Armenia’s commissioner general of Diaspora affairs, implicitly welcomed Gogbashian’s appointment. “This is the first time that a Diaspora Armenian will be ambassador to Armenia,” the office wrote on its Facebook page.
The development coincided with Armenian President Armen Sarkissian’s latest visit to London. Sarkissian’s office said on Monday that he met there with “a number of high-ranking UK officials.” It did not name any of those officials.
Sarkissian expressed Armenia’s readiness to deepen ties with the UK when he congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming British prime minister late last month.
Sarkissian, 66, lived and worked in London, including as Armenian ambassador to Britain, for nearly three decades prior to becoming Armenia’s largely ceremonial head of state in April 2018. He received British citizenship in 2002 but renounced it about a decade later.
Meanwhile, the British Embassy in Yerevan touted on Monday a “substantial” increase in commercial ties between the two countries.
“Growth in trade turnover was 42 percent and 18 percent in 2017 and 2018 respectively,” it said in written comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “There was a substantial growth in the UK’s investment flows to Armenia over the past four years in sectors such as ICT, pharmaceutical and mining.”
“The British Embassy in Yerevan sees further potential for growth and is working with UK companies and sectors in Armenia to encourage more UK trade and investment,” it added.
The British mission also said London is committed to helping Armenia become a “democratic, prosperous and resilient country.”
“To do this, over the last year or so, the UK has increased its support to Armenia’s domestic reform agenda,” it said. “We supported delivery of the free and fair elections last December and now we are focusing on helping to strengthen Armenia’s institutions, which is crucial for Armenia’s long-term development. We are doing this through a range of governance and economic reforms, defense reform, efforts to tackle corruption and uphold human rights.”