YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Israel’s Agriculture Minister Orit Noked laid a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on Monday during what was a rare visit to Armenia by an Israeli cabinet member.
Noked arrived in Yerevan to discuss ways of promoting cooperation between the agricultural sectors of the two countries. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian told her that the Armenian government would like to look into Israel’s successful experience in agricultural development.
“We are ready to share our experience,” a government statement quoted Noked as saying at a meeting with Sargsyan. “I am confident that we can successfully work together and implement various joint projects.”
“Your visit to Armenian can be viewed as a new step towards developing Armenian-Israeli relations,” the Armenian premier said for his part. “We are interested in that.”
The Israeli minister met Sargsyann after visiting the Dzidzernagapert memorial and the adjacent Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute. “As a woman, as a Jew and as a human being, I am shocked to see pictures of the killing of innocent Armenian people and families,” she wrote in the museum guestbook, according to the Armenpress news agency.
“We are similar peoples in terms of history, character and the fact we have communities around the world,” Noked told Armenpress.
Citing the strategic character of the Turkish-Israeli relationship, successive Israeli governments have resisted calls for an official Israeli recognition of the Armenian Genocide. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official reaffirmed this stance during landmark hearings on the issue that were organized by an Israeli parliament committee last December.
Support for Armenian genocide recognition appears to have grown within the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, over the past year. Observers link that to Israel’s worsening relations with Turkey, which vehemently denies the genocide.
Relations between Armenia and Israel are also less than cordial now not least because of the Jewish state’s growing military cooperation with Azerbaijan. Earlier this year, Israeli defense officials confirmed a reported deal to sell Azerbaijan unmanned military aircraft, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion.
The Azerbaijani military is known to already possess Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). One such drone was apparently shot down by Armenian forces while flying a reconnaissance mission over Nagorno-Karabakh last September.