On 9 March, Egypt and Armenia are marking 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations since Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union in September 1991. Thirty years ago on March 2, 1992, the newly independent Republic of Armenia’s tricolour flag waved on the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York for the first time.
In September of the same year, the first Armenian Embassy in Egypt was opened on a temporary venue in Dokki. In 1997, the embassy was relocated to Zamalek.
The first official visit to Armenia by an Egyptian government figure was in January 1992 by former deputy prime minister Kamal El-Ganzuri, while Armenia’s former foreign minister Raffy Hovhannissian visited Egypt on March 9 with the purpose of signing a diplomatic agreement between the two countries.
It is worth noting that the Egyptian Embassy was established in the Armenian capital of Yerevan in April of 1993.
Furthermore, Egyptian-Armenian fraternity and mutual cooperation is historic, it goes back to centuries, dating back to the Byzantine and Fatimid era, when Badr El-Din El-Gammali became the vizir of Cairo and formed an army of Armenian soldiers, all the way till Mohamed Ali Pasha’s reign, when Egypt’s first prime minister, Nubar Pasha Nubarian — who was of Armenian origin — was appointed in 1878.
Egypt also received the first Armenian refugees fleeing the Ottoman massacres in 1915, with as many as 4,231 finding shelter in Port Fouad’s camps until 1919.
On the occasion, Ahram Online conducted an interview with the newly appointed Ambassador of Armenia to Egypt, Hrachya Poladyan, who was also appointed as the ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman on 7 March.
Poladyan was born in 1971 in Yerevan and graduated from the Arabic Studies Department of the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University. He also holds a Master of Arts in oriental studies.
He started his diplomatic career in 1993 at the Consulate General of Armenia in Aleppo, Syria. Poladyan’s first encounter with Egypt, however, was in 2008, when he was appointed as a political counsellor at the Armenian Embassy in Cairo until 2011. He also served as the ambassador of Armenia to Iraq from 2018 to 2021.
In 2016, Poladyan was awarded the Medal of Honour of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia.
Ahram Online (AO): Where do you find Egypt and Armenia today, after 30 years of establishing diplomatic relations?
Hrachya Poladyan (HP): First of all, I would like to underline that this is a major milestone for our countries. Meanwhile, the common history of the Armenian and Egyptian nations is much longer. The last 30 years of Armenian-Egyptian relations were considered as an important period, full of developments that have proven that Armenia and Egypt are friendly states that have no political contradictions; only prospects for positive and effective cooperation. Thus, I find that Armenia and Egypt are on the right track. Much has been done, but there is still even more work to do.
AO: What kind of support has your community received from the Egyptian government(s) since its formation in the past?
HP: According to historians, Armenians appeared in Ancient Egypt during the time of the Third Pharaonic Dynasty. If we talk about organised community, then the famous mediaeval Arab historian Al-Makrizi should be mentioned. According to him, at the end of the 11th century, 30,000 Armenians lived in Egypt. I want to emphasise that this is just an example, as throughout the history of Egypt, Armenians have always played a significant role in the country, where they were welcomed by all Egyptian administrations.
Furthermore, Armenians have been part of Egyptian governments for centuries. In this context, let’s mention, for example, governor of Egypt Ali Ibn Yahya El-Armani (9th century); vizir Bahram El-Armani (12th century); the first minister of foreign affairs of Egypt, Boghos Yusufian Pasha (1775-1844); and the first prime minister of Egypt, Nubar Pasha (1825-1899).
AO: Are there any plans to celebrate these 30 years of diplomatic relations?
HP: We are planning to organise a number of events. For example, on March 22 at the Cairo Opera House, the famous Armenian ensemble Cadence will hold a concert. Also, during the second half of this year, a scientific conference will be held as well. These are just examples. We are working hard to have an eventful year.
AO: In your opinion, what do you think should be the community’s role in developing Egyptian-Armenian relations? And how important is that role?
HP: In my opinion, the Armenian community in Egypt has always played a significant role in strengthening and developing Armenian-Egyptian relations. The community is an important mediator between the two peoples and countries. The existence of the community shapes a situation of mutual trust, without which building relations is impossible.
Thus, Armenians of Egypt create and maintain multiple links between our two countries, which are becoming stronger as time passes by. Surely, the role of the community for our interstate relations is of utmost importance.
AO: What are your country’s main areas of interest in Egypt?
HP: Armenia and Egypt have multifaceted relations. However, cooperation in the political, economic (especially, high technologies, tourism, etc.), trade, education, and other spheres are our mutual priorities.
AO: What are the latest developments/agreements concerning tourism and travel between the two countries?
HP: Recently, the Armenian side has simplified the visa procedure for Egyptian tourist groups, and in the near future, we look forward to continuing this positive dynamic, simplifying the process even further.
AO: Do you consider Egypt as a tourism destination for Armenian citizens?
HP: Surely, we consider Egypt as a tourism destination. The triple growth in the number of Armenian tourists in Egypt last year, I believe, speaks for itself. Here, on one hand, a tourist can have a beach holiday, on the other hand, he can visit Cairo, Alexandria, and a plethora of other historic places and heritage sites. Thus, in Egypt, one can combine different types of relaxation/tourism. Also, security is paramount in the modern world, and Armenians consider Egypt as a friendly and safe country.
AO: Do you think Armenia would be an attractive destination for Egyptian citizens as well? If you agree, what are the elements your country possesses?
HP: I have already mentioned that we are working on further simplifying the visa process for Egyptians. The reason why we are doing this is not only to further political relations, but also to make Armenia more of an attractive touristic destination for Egyptians. Armenia is a modern country with hospitable people, a rich history, remarkable natural sights, unique architecture, and delicious cuisine. No doubt, we have many to offer to our Egyptian brothers and sisters.
AO: What avenues, in education, investment, and culture for example, should be explored to strengthen relations between Egypt and Armenia?
HP: The areas of cooperation you have just mentioned are significant. We work permanently in all these directions. Currently, we are trying to attract more Egyptian students to study in Armenia. With this end in mind, we are organising meetings with our Egyptian counterparts in order to simplify the resolution of technical issues, develop legal frameworks, as well as raise awareness of Egyptians about the educational opportunities offered by Armenia.
We are also making great efforts to strengthen our economic and trade cooperation. In this regard, the need to increase the volume of mutual investments is one of the keys. We are planning several Armenian-Egyptian business forums.
Furthermore, Armenian companies are interested in participating in Egyptian industrial exhibitions. There is much potential in cooperating in the fields of technology and tourism as well. I am sure that the free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Egypt will also give momentum to widen investment cooperation.
As a member of the EEU, Armenia continues to exert every effort to assist Egypt in completing the process of drafting and signing the document as soon as possible.
Armenia and Egypt have also emphasised the importance of cooperation in the cultural sphere. The existence of the Armenian community in Egypt is an important factor in this context. Many Egyptian artists of Armenian origin are accepted and loved by Egyptians.
The Egyptian Cultural Days event that was held in Armenia in October 2019, which featured Egyptian-Armenian singer Anushka and the Reda Dance Troupe for Folk Arts, was a major success.
Consequently, in 2023/24 we are also planning to organise an Armenian Cultural Days event in Egypt.
AO: Have there been any achievements in the field of medicine between the two countries during the past 30 years?
HP: During the past 30 years, Armenia and Egypt have worked out an appropriate legal framework to cooperate in the field of medicine. Nowadays, the Armenian and Egyptian Ministries of Health and Population maintain contact in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Other positive examples can also be given. So, I think we can state that cooperation in this field is successful.
AO: What is the outcome of your recent meeting with Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat, knowing that your country pays great attention to IT?
HP: I would like to say that it was a very interesting and fruitful meeting. With Minister Amr Talaat, we discussed our broad agenda, including the organisation of the Armenian-Egyptian Information Technology Business Forum and the expansion of its legal framework.
We also touched upon the regular session of the Armenian-Egyptian Joint Intergovernmental Commission that is planned to take place in 2022, the third International Exhibition of Arms and Defence Technologies ‘ArmHighTech-2022’ that will be held from 31 March to 2 April in Yerevan, and of the events dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Armenian-Egyptian diplomatic relations.
During the meeting we came to a number of arrangements. Thus, our meeting was very useful.
AO: How do you see Egypt’s role in the Middle East?
HP: I see that Egypt currently plays its traditional role in the region. Egypt is a key country in building the security architecture of the Middle East. Officially, Cairo stabilises the region and contributes to the development of neighbouring countries.
We welcome, for example, the activities of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, the Egypt-Greece-Cyprus trilateral format of cooperation, Egypt’s consistent struggle against terrorism, and Egypt’s mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ongoing Libyan crisis.
Furthermore, Armenia is voicing its support for resolving the GERD issue as soon as possible for the benefit of the countries of the Nile-basin.
AO: Where does Armenia stand in the global economy today?
HP: Armenia is working hard to become an industrial country with a hi-tech economy and green energetics. We have already reached some success, and we are sure that cooperation between our two countries will further accelerate this process.
AO: What is your message to both countries’ governments and people on this special day?
HP: I wish our governments and peoples peace and prosperity. I believe that the friendship between our countries will last forever. This is the main mission of the Embassy of Armenia in Egypt.