Nalbandyan Pushes Greater Economic Ties on Mid-East Tour

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian was touring the Middle East this week, meeting with leaders from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for talks aimed at deepening ties with the four Arab countries, considered the bastions of the Armenian Diaspora in the Middle East, news agencies reported this week.

Kicking off his tour with Egypt, Nalbandian met on February 23 with Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Al Gheydi and Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif. Nalbandian’s meetings with the Egyptian leaders were followed by a townhall meeting with the country’s Armenian community.

In talks with Foreign Minister Gheydia, Nalbandian discussed a broad range of issues related to the development of bilateral ties, and cooperation in international organizations. The deepening of economic and political ties was also on the agenda.

According to Prime Minister Nazif, the friendly relations between the peoples of Armenia and Egypt are a firm basis for further development of cooperation between the two countries. The active role of the Egyptian-Armenian community and its participation in different spheres of the country’s life is “bright evidence” of the strong relationship between the two countries, Nazif added, noting that he had the “warmest feelings and sympathy” towards Armenia and her people.

Yerevan is interested in boosting and expanding bilateral relations with Cairo, Nalbandian said, noting that the current level of political dialogue needs to be “consolidated by bilateral economic projects and efficient usage of existing opportunities of development of trade-economic relations.”

Arriving in Amman on February 24, Nalbandian met with the newly appointed Jordanian Foreign minister, Naser Jaude. The two ministers discussed bilateral relations between their countries, stressing the need to deepen them further, Armenpress reported. Jaude’s meeting with Nalbandian was his first since taking up the Foreign Ministry a day earlier.

The Armenian Foreign Minister told his Jordanian counterpart that Yerevan saw great potential in the relations between Armenia and Jordan. Nalbandian stressed that the countries should step up their relationship with greater political dialogue and the promotion of closer trade relations.

The two ministers also discussed opportunities to expand tourism between the two countries. Nalbandian and Jaude agreed the two countries would hold periodic consultations between their foreign ministries. Nalbandian invited his counterpart to visit Armenia.

He ended his visit with a townhall meeting with representatives of the Jordanian-Armenian community.

Nalbandian arrived next in Lebanon, where he met with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh on February 25. Nalbandian also met with Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia and representatives of the Armenian community.

Speaking to Siniora and Salloukh, Nalbandian praised the growing trade relations between the two countries, noting that there are already 50 Lebanese businesses functioning in Armenia.

Siniora, for his part, welcomed the contributions of the Lebanese Armenian community to his country’s relations with Armenia, saying that it has served as a unique bridge in developing mutually beneficial relations between Yerevan and Beirut.

But the development of Armenian-Lebanese relations has been slow in the past few years, Nalbandian said, pointing to unnamed “objective and subjective reasons.” His visit, he added, is aimed at “giving new drive to the mutually beneficial cooperation.”

The two foreign ministers also agreed to restart direct diplomatic consultations between the two countries.

Nalbandian visited Syria on the last leg of his tour through, holding talks in Damascus with President Bashar Al-Asad. The two spoke on the same theme as Nalbandian’s previous visits, stressing the need to strengthen trade relations and political dialogue between the two countries.

Nalbandian told the Egyptian President that Yerevan is keen on “expanding and reinforcing its mutually beneficial cooperation with Syria.” He invited Al-Asad to visit Armenia and meet with President Serzh Sarkisian for further discussions. The two also discussed the Middle East peace process, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenian Turkish relations.

Al-Asad welcomed Armenia’s positive influence in the Caucasus, noting that Yerevan’s step toward establishing normal ties with Turkey will “reinforce stability and security in the region.”

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