YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Senior Armenian and Israeli diplomats discussed the sometimes uneasy relationship between their countries during two days of consultations that ended in Yerevan on Tuesday.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two negotiating teams were headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian and Pinchas Avivi, a high-level Israeli Foreign Ministry official coordinating ties with Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
“During the consultations the two sides discussed issues related to Armenia-Israel cooperation, developments taking place in the Middle East and South Caucasus regions as well as other issues of mutual interest,” read a ministry statement. It gave no details of those discussions.
Although the statement described the talks as “regular,” they are understood to be connected with Kirakosian’s July 25 phone conversation with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Ministry Danny Ayalon.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that Ayalon “thanked Kirakosian for the friendly relationship and mentioned the historical ties and cultural similarities between the two nations.”
“Ayalon emphasized the importance Israel attaches to the continuous development of diplomatic relations and practical cooperation with Armenia,” the ministry said in a statement. “He further stated that it would be his pleasure to visit Yerevan, and invited Kirakosian to visit Israel.”
Ayalon also “reiterated the special sensitivity we, as Jews, feel regarding the Armenian tragedy,” the statement added in reference to the Genocide.
Successive Israeli governments have resisted domestic and Armenian calls for an official Israeli recognition of the first genocide of the 20th century.
Support for such recognition appears to have grown within the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, over the past year. Some observers attribute that to Israel’s increasingly strained relations with Turkey, which vehemently denies the genocide.
Diplomatic sources in Yerevan say that Ayalon phoned his Armenian counterpart to address the Armenian government’s unease over Israel’s growing ties with Azerbaijan, which was communicated to another Israeli diplomat earlier this summer.
One source told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Ayalon strongly denied news reports that quoted him as saying in May that Israel will not recognize the Armenian genocide because of Azerbaijan’s importance for his country.
Incidentally, Avivi, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Turkey from 2003-2007, and other Israeli diplomats accompanying him visited Yerevan’s Tsitsernakabert genocide memorial on Tuesday.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held up the Azerbaijani-Israeli ties as a model for cooperation between the Jewish state and a Muslim nation when he visited Baku in February 2010. He also reportedly voiced support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and denounced the international community’s “inadequate and hypocritical” approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Unfortunately, the international community prefers sweet lies,” Azerbaijani media quoted Lieberman as saying at the time.
In what may have been an attempt to soothe Yerevan, Ayalon clearly contradicted those remarks in his phone call with Kirakosian. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, he said that “Israel supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group to reach a negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.”
The United States, Russia and France have been trying to broker a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute with the framework of the Minsk Group.
Yerevan should have more serious concerns about Azerbaijani-Israeli military cooperation. Israel’s “Ha’aretz” daily reported in 2008 that the two governments have signed a deal that will enable Azerbaijan to purchase Israeli weapons, other military equipment and ammunition worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Baku announced last year that an Israeli defense company will upgrade dozens of Azerbaijani army tanks. Another Israeli firm is known to have sold unmanned military aircraft to Baku in recent years. An Azerbaijani-Israeli joint venture reportedly began assembling drones in Azerbaijan earlier this year.