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ArmInfo’s interview of Ambassador of the State Israel to the Republic of Armenia, H.E. Mr. Shmuel Meirom
by Emmanuil Mkrtchyan
Israel and Armenia plan to sign an agreement of visa-free regime. At what stage are the negotiations now? What is the goal of the agreement?
Agreements for exemption of visas are meant primarily to encourage mutual tourism and business in the sense that they enable the citizens of the two countries to enjoy an exemption on the visa fee and facilitate the entry to the country which is a signatory of the agreement. This is also a kind of an expression of friendship between the countries.
Israel and Armenia are about to sign an agreement for exemption of official visas for bearers of diplomatic passports only .The next stage, so we hope, will be an agreement for exemption of visas for bearers of national passports as well, the kind of agreement that Israel has with most of the CIS countries.
You have recently mentioned that the people of Israel are very sensitive to the issue of the Armenian Genocide. Will the Israelis, the people that survived Holocaust, help bringing the Armenian-Turkish relations out of the current stalemate, if an appropriate discussion is launched?
Indeed, as you mentioned, Israelis and Jews in general have a special sensitivity to the tragedy that struck the Armenian People. Israel and Turkey had in the past a friendly and warm relationship compatible with the interests of both sides. In present days these relations are colder and both states are represented in each other by diplomats who are not ambassadors. So that it is doubtful that Israel can influence Turkey's policy. We hope that these relations will improve in the near future and then Israel will undoubtedly be in a better position to contribute to the betterment of the relations between Turkey and Armenia if it is asked to do so.
Given Armenia’s high-level relations with its partner Iran, in Israel they are rather cautious about the idea of the North-South communications. Will that attitude change with the positive shifts that are currently observed in the relations of Iran and the U.S.?
As long as Iran does not change its policy, and stops supporting international terror (such as Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist movements) through armaments and money, stops incitement against Israel and threatening to destroy it and try to attack its citizens over the world and as long as it continues its nuclear program, then Israel cannot change its policy. The smiling campaign of President Rouhani is not enough. As long as we don't have a qualitative change of its policy, we ought to keep the sanctions against Iran and even tighten them significantly.
Israel supports the idea of independent Iraqi Kurdistan. At first sight, it is rather a contradictory stand, given the continuous Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestine’s aspiration for independence. Would you explain such stand of Israel?
I wouldn't draw a parallel between the two things. The Independence of Kurdistan is not on the table. But as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, you ought to know that Israel supports the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State, but the conditions that the Palestinians put before Israel are not acceptable and even more so after the Palestinian Authority signed a pact of reconciliation with the Hamas terror movement which openly declares its aim of annihilating Israel and launches missiles almost on a daily basis on Israeli villages and towns.
What is the reason of such low level of the Armenian-Israeli economic and trade relations? Some experts say Israel’s economic model can be applied also in Armenia. However, there is no information on any serious consultations between the two countries in the field. Neither there is exchange of experience, specialists, technologies or others. Are there any plans to foster the economic cooperation?
Israel is willing to contribute of its experience in the field of economy and finances but it cannot force Israeli business people to invest in Armenia in the same way that Armenia cannot oblige Armenian business people to make business with Israel. To make business there has to be a mutual interest which can be promoted by signing economic agreements (such as, customs agreements, prevention of double taxation etc…) Negotiations are going on between the two countries to sign an agreement on the prevention of double taxation and we already have a civil aviation agreement. Soon we will have in Armenia a special day on innovation aimed at exposing the Israeli experience in the matter. All of this supposed to increase the motivation of business people on both sides.
By the way, in the last two years, there was a sizable increase in the number of Israeli tourists visiting Armenia and this is in large part due to the invitation of Israeli journalists (initiated by Israel) to visit the wonderful tourism sites of Armenia. When back to Israel, they wrote several articles on the beauty of the country and this had a big in fluence on Israelis to come and visit Armenia. The direct air route between the two countries has also contributed to that.
We hope to see a similar increase in the number of Armenian tourists in Israel.