BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The Armenian National Committee of Greece sent a letter to the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias complaining about the Greek Ambassador’s propaganda tour of occupied Shushi, orchestrated by the government of Azerbaijan. The Foreign Minister responded by making lame excuses for the Ambassador’s appalling behavior.
Here is what the ANC of Greece wrote to Foreign Minister Dendias on July 12: “We were surprised but also very upset to learn about the participation of the Ambassador of Greece to Azerbaijan, Mr. Nikolaos Piperigkos, in the provocative celebration organized by the Aliyev regime…. The Armenian National Committee, as well as the Armenian Community of Greece as a whole, express their strong dissatisfaction with the participation of the representative of our country in this parody. You know very well that Azerbaijan, by faithfully copying its mentor [Turkey], is grossly violating the rules of international law. What is the purpose of the support provided by Greece at this critical time?”
Foreign Minister Dendias replied on July 27: “Greece maintains long-standing excellent historical and friendly relations with Armenia. In difficult times for Armenia, Greece stood by the country and its people. I myself visited Yerevan on October 16, 2020, when hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region were still ongoing, sending a message of solidarity. Also, responding to the request of the Armenian organizations in our country with the coordination of the International Development Cooperation Agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greece carried out two humanitarian aid missions (medical supplies and food) on December 12, 2020 and January 8, 2021, displaying practical assistance. At the same time, as is known, Greece has maintained diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan since 1992. After the crisis in bilateral relations [between Azerbaijan and Greece] in autumn 2020, the Greek Ambassador returned to Baku, where in the framework of his duties, he maintains contacts with the country he is accredited to and follows closely local developments. In addition, considering the circumstance of our country’s membership in the European Union, the Embassy coordinates its activities with our partners. For this reason too, the acceptance of the invitation of the Azeri Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Greek Ambassador, after six negative responses to continuous similar invitations, which were already accepted by other European Embassies, is in no way an endorsement of views or recognition of actions of the host state, much less ‘participating in celebrations.’ It was carried out with the coordination of [EU] Member States with the purpose of on-site observation and recording what was happening to transfer accurate information to the Foreign Ministry.”
Here are the problems with the Foreign Minister’s reply:
- He does not seem to understand that by appeasing a hostile nation the Ambassador’s actions are undermining Greece’s own interests as well as those of Armenia.
- Azerbaijan is no friend of Greece. As the Foreign Minister recalled in his letter, last September, during the Greek Ambassador’s presentations of his credentials, Pres. Aliyev told him in an inappropriate and undiplomatic manner: “I can tell you, and it is no secret, that Turkey is not only our friend and partner, but also a brotherly country for us. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we support Turkey and will support it under any circumstances. We support them [Turkey] in all issues, including the issue in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
- The Foreign Minister stated in his letter that other European countries also accepted the Azeri invitation. He ignored the fact that several other major European countries, including Great Britain, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic, in addition to Russia and the United States, refused to participate in the Azeri propaganda tour of Shushi. Greece should have done likewise!
- The Foreign Minister’s excuse that the Greek Ambassador’s visit to Shushi was to provide on-site observation is ridiculous. The Greek Ambassador was simply duped into participating in a charade orchestrated by Azerbaijan to boast about the occupation and destruction of a historic Armenian region, its people and religious sites in violation of international law.
The Greek Foreign Minister correctly mentioned the friendship between Greece and Armenia. Such friendship, however, must go beyond empty statements. It has to be shown by concrete actions, not mere words.
As I wrote in my previous article, the Greek Foreign Minister must immediately dispatch his Ambassador in Yerevan to Stepanakert, the Capital of the Republic of Artsakh, to atone for his Baku counterpart’s offensive visit to Shushi. If not, the ANC of Greece and the local Armenian community must have an immediate meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and demand that he immediately fire the Foreign Minister and recall the Ambassador from Azerbaijan.
By obeying the instructions of Pres. Aliyev, the Greek Ambassador betrayed not only Armenia, but also the interests of Greece. Instead of joining ranks with Armenia and other friendly nations against Azerbaijan and Turkey, Greece is alienating its own allies.
I am still waiting for the Prime Minister of Armenia to organize for the foreign Ambassadors stationed in Yerevan a tour of Stepanakert, the Capital of the Republic of Artsakh, to counter the visit to Shushi arranged by Azerbaijan. To do this, however, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan must first appoint a Foreign Minister.