Foreign Minister Shuns Israeli Leaders on Jerusalem Trip

Armenia's Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (left) with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

JERUSALEM (RFE/RL)—Underscoring Armenia’s uneasy relationship with Israel, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has not met with his Israeli counterpart or any other member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government during a rare visit to Jerusalem.

Nalbandian held talks instead with Israel’s largely ceremonial President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday during what the Armenian Foreign Ministry described as a one-day “working visit.” He also attended a concert by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Ministry statements on the trip did not explain why Nalbandian failed to meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other Israeli cabinet members. The ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Nalbandian flew to Jerusalem one week after Yerevan condemned Lieberman’s presence at what it considers an anti-Armenian ceremony in the Israeli city of Acre that was organized by an Azerbaijani government-linked group. The event was dedicated to the 23rd anniversary of the deaths of several hundred Azerbaijani residents of Khojaly, a small town in Nagorno-Karabakh. It was part of the group’s efforts to have the international community recognize the 1992 deaths as a genocide committed by the Armenians.

Lieberman was a keynote speaker at the ceremony. “We are here today to combine the experience of Israel with that of Azerbaijan so that we can prevent such tragedies from happening in the future,” he said, according to Azerbaijani news agencies.

“It is inappropriate that any politician could allow himself to be dragged into the Azerbaijani cheap manipulations,” Balayan said in written comments on February 26.

Lieberman already raised eyebrows in Armenia during a 2010 visit to Baku. He reportedly voiced support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and accused international mediators of pro-Armenian bias in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Lieberman’s deputy, Danny Ayalon, contradicted those claims in a 2011 phone call with his Armenian opposite number, Arman Kirakosian. Ayalon said Israel supports the peace efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-headed by the United States, Russia and France.

Armenian-Israeli relations have also been soured by Israel’s large-scale arms sales to Azerbaijan. In 2012, Israeli defense officials confirmed a reported deal to provide the Azerbaijani military with more unmanned aircraft as well as anti-aircraft and missile defense systems worth a combined $1.6 billion.

An Israeli-made Azerbaijani drone was apparently shot down by Armenian forces while flying a reconnaissance mission over Artsakh in 2011.

According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian and President Rivlin stressed the need to “invigorate political dialogue” between their countries. They also agreed that the Armenian and Jewish peoples share “common responsibility to prevent crimes against humanity,” a ministry statement said.

“Few nations have as many similarities as Armenians and Jews do,” Nalbandian said in a speech that preceded the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra concert later in the day. “Having endured genocides and been scattered around the world, we are proud of restoring our statehoods in the 20th century.”

Nalbandian, who had served as Armenia’s Paris-based ambassador to Israel from 2000-2008, went on to pay tribute to prominent Israeli and Jewish-American scholars advocating international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Successive Israeli governments have declined to recognize the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide for fear of antagonizing Turkey. Rivlin, who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, called for Israeli recognition of the genocide when he served as parliament speaker in 2012.


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  1. Hratch said:

    Uncanny similarities between Obama’s cold reception to Netanyahu’s recent US visit.

  2. Hratch said:

    No similarities between Armenian-Russian relations Armenian-Russian relations have not soured by Russia’s large-scale arms sales to Azerbaijan.

  3. ara said:

    Israel is destroying people and cultures for their gain. We r not fooled. They wonder why so many hate them. Keep giving them turks the bullets and it will blow up on u. Not the way And know u r not the only culture that underwent Genocide. U r destroying urself.

  4. GB said:

    Unfortunately the moral values of Israeli politicians have been evaporated from their uncapped burning heads, since Holocaust. Jewish State built based on survivors of Holocaust, where recognition of Armenian Genocide in knesset become a political tools, and once a while they exercise and raise the level of the danger of Genocide recognition by Knesset, like Mr. Netanyahu ridicule Iran’s bomb sketch in UN, against frightened “friendly enemies” of Israel, where they can make the most out of them.

  5. zarkim said:

    I would not trade Edward Nalbandian’s dirt with whole Israelite community.
    Nalbandiany hoghe israelzinery gelkhin.

  6. Garo said:

    I praise The good policy of the Armenian government to stand up for the rights of its people ,and specially shun any government or entity that denies the genocide. Didn’t israel do the same thing?

  7. GeorgeMardig said:

    Justice should be made to all: to Sumgait, Armenian Genocide and Khojali

  8. GeorgeMardig said:

    Israel is praying to see a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, so they can renew their military contracts.

  9. Eddy said:

    When it comes to people like Lieberman’ and Netanyahu such people are stilling making business with the dead bodies for Armenia people!

    Germany and Israel both are showing again and again disrespect for Armenian people, simple Germany regards itself “RICH”: but rich in what ? Official Armenian should act and demand from Germany more respect for the commemoration events in Yerevan on April 24. ! This Turkey in today’s border and without her Armenian population and Armenian culture does exist thanks to the help of Germany

    IF Germany and Israel play fo us Armenians there well know old and dirty game and DO refuse to accept the fact of Armenian Genocide and be officially represented by a very high level officials in the Armenian capital in this case Armenia should not allow that Germany and Israel send there ambassadors to the commemoration events in Yerevan on April 24.

  10. sam said:

    Bravo Nalbandian , we have NO respect to any Genocide denier be a Jew or a Turk

  11. Manougian christian said:

    Well Ofcorse Liberman a person with no identity
    Pretends he is a diplomat , knows nothing about Genocides and
    Demanding other nations to be transfared to naibouring countries
    Committing another Genicide .
    What he realy think him self . A person like him who
    Makes billions from Azerbijan business ,
    He needs decades to reach Rubin Rivilin charisma .
    Shame ……

  12. Shlomo said:

    Israel and Armenia are old and Nobel nation their unity is a must!

  13. Armenian Christian said:

    Its nice to see my nation is growing some back bone and self respect…. Enough kissing the hands of those with blood on them…. More things like this and I will seriously have to reconsider repatriating