YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Nawaf Massalha–a member of the Israeli Parliament and Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel–was touring the South Caucasus recently to present the situation in the Middle East to the leaders of the region’s three countries and try to deepen Israel’s bilateral relations with these countries.
Massalha said Israel respected Armenia’s interests in the Middle East–which is home for many Armenia’s–and did not wish to damage relations in any way. In particular–he spoke about Armenia’s’ holy places referring to them as to "East Jerusalem’s Armenian district."Armenia’s are respected by both Arabs and Jews–and in any case they will not do any harm. Local Armenia’s have opted for remaining within Christian districts–however Armenia does not–by any means–interfere in this process. The Yerevan talks have affirmed Armenia’s position as not wanting to be a negotiating party or support any party to the negotiations–which it explains by the presence of Armenian communities in the Middle East."
Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Levon Mkrtchian–who was accompanying his Israeli counterpart–said: "The Armenian Apostolic Church has its legitimate interests in the Jerusalem dispute. The Armenian Church’s raising the issue of the Armenian districts and sacred places dear to Christians in the common context is quite justified; necessary steps will be taken as far as our state is concerned."
Massalha disagreed with the opinion that Israel is reluctant to deepen relations with Armenia by saying: "True–the extent to which our relations are developed is below satisfactory–but it does not mean that we are unwilling to develop them further. Therefore–I suggested that our countries’ business circles exchange visits. One Israeli businessman has already invested in Armenia’s diamond industry. "Neither did the Israeli official agree with the opinion that Israel has warmer relations with Azerbaijan than with Armenia. "Armenia–too–has a framework of its own relationships. Say–you have relations with Iran–but we don’t. We take it in its stride. We have relations with Turkey–but not at Armenia’s expense. It’s wrong to assume that we have taken a special liking to Azerbaijan or that we share its viewpoints," Massalha explained.