Diplomatic Consultations Held to Revive Precarious Armenian-Israeli

Global Insight
August 24, 2011

Diplomatic Consultations Held to Revive Precarious Armenian-Israeli Ties

BYLINE: Lilit Gevorgyan

Armenian and Israeli diplomats have concluded two days of consultation
in the Armenian capital Yerevan. Armenian deputy foreign minister
Arman Kirakosyan and Pinchas Avivi, a high-ranking Israeli diplomat
overseeing Israel’s relations with Eastern Europe and former Soviet
countries, led the delegations. Media reports suggest that the
round-table discussions were initiated by Kirakosyan. The Armenian
Foreign Ministry issued a statement following the talks which was
generally muted about the more specific details of the consultations.
It only stated that the parties talked about the bilateral
co-operation potential, the issue of the ethnic-Armenian self-declared
republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. The ministry statement also mentioned
that Avivi expressed Israel’s “special sensitivity regarding the
Armenian tragedy” in reference to killings of over 1.5 million
Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century which Armenia,
along with a number of countries, has recognised as genocide–a label
disputed by Turkey.

Significance:The carefully drafted foreign ministry statement points
to the main issues that have strained Armenian-Israeli relations in
recent years. Israel’s stance on Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the key
problems. Tel Aviv has supported Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity
since the six-year war broke out over the region’s claim to
self-determination in 1988. This support for Azerbaijan has come from
Israel’s equally close ties with Azerbaijan’s ethnic kin Turkey, which
until the recent diplomatic spat has been one of Israel’s closest
allies in the region. In February 2010 Israeli foreign minister
Avigdor Lieberman during his visit to Azerbaijan hailed their
bilateral ties as model relations and dismissed international efforts
to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as “inadequate and
hypocritical”, a dangerous statement in the light of Azerbaijan’s
increased threats to launch a new war and force the region under its
control. This issue is even more alarming for Armenia considering the
growing scale of Azerbaijani-Israeli military co-operation. Israel has
concluded large arms supply deals with Azerbaijan, including military
equipment, ammunition, and unmanned aircrafts. An Azerbaijani-Israeli
joint venture has recently started production of drones in Azerbaijan.
Aside from the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Armenia is also concerned with
the Israeli government’s repeated efforts to block the Israeli
parliament’s efforts to recognise the 1915 massacres as genocide. The
Israeli government has justified this stance as driven by concerns of
not alienating Turkey and jeopardising its security. However, in the
light of the continuing spat with the Turkish government as well as
the strong domestic lobbying by Israeli academics and the general
public to draw a line between moral issues and realpolitik, the
Israeli government is under more pressure to revisit its stance on the
issue. That said, given the importance of close military and lucrative
economic ties both with Azerbaijan and Turkey, Israeli-Armenian
relations are unlikely to see a major overhaul in the coming years.