The opening of the Armenian Embassy in Tel Aviv, initially slated for the beginning of this year, was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
A Russian-language news website, Vesti Izrail, reported that a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official attended the opening ceremony held on Thursday. It quoted the official, Itzhak Carmel-Kagan, as saying that the embassy will facilitate a “constructive dialogue” between the two countries.
The Armenian mission located inside a Tel Aviv office building began providing consular services last month. Also, Ambassador Armen Smbat met with leaders of the Armenian community in the Holy Land, including Jerusalem-based Patriarch Nourhan Manougian.
The Armenian government decided to open the embassy in September 2019, saying that it will not only “give new impetus” to its relations with Israel but also help to secure the Armenian Apostolic Church’s continued presence in the Holy Land.
The decision was hailed by Israeli leaders but criticized by some officials in Iran, a key foreign partner of Armenia. The Armenian ambassador to Iran, Artashes Tumanian, assured a senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official in June that Yerevan remains committed to its “friendly” relationship with the Islamic Republic despite its desire to improve Armenian-Israeli ties.
Armenia and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1992 but have had no embassies in each other’s capitals until now. The former Armenian ambassadors to the Jewish state were based in Paris, Cairo and Yerevan.
Armenian-Israeli relations have long been frosty, reflecting differing geopolitical priorities of the two states. Yerevan has repeatedly expressed concern over billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons which Israeli defense companies have sold, with the Israeli government’s blessing, to Azerbaijan over the past decade.
“Israel should stop this deadly business with Azerbaijan,” Armenian Foreign Zohrab Mnatsakanian said following deadly fighting that broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in July.
The Azerbaijani army attacked Armenian military and civilian targets with Israeli-manufactured drones during the weeklong hostilities. The Armenian military claimed to have shot down or intercepted 13 of them.