Armenia Backs Egypt in Feud with Turkey
Turkey’s actions undermine efforts toward peace and stability in the South Caucasus, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakayan said at a joint press conference in Cairo on Monday with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry. He also said Yerevan supports Egypt in its feud with Ankara.
Mnatsakanyan is on an official visit to Egypt, where he met with high-level officials, including the country’s president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who welcomed the foreign minister stressing the special historical relationship between Egypt and Armenia and reaffirmed Egypt’s willingness to strengthen joint cooperation between the two countries at various levels.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Egypt’s foreign minister, Shoukry, Mnatsakanyan spoke of the escalation of tension on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan in July, highlighting Turkey’s one-sided, “very aggressive” approach in support of Azerbaijan and Ankara’s anti-Armenian rhetoric from various Turkish government officials.
“Of course we see the military build-up that they [Turkey] are attempting. We are hearing about the use of the foreign terrorist fighters to be transferred to Azerbaijan or maybe they are already transferred. We see the heavy military presence, the build-up. These are exactly the moves which undermine the effort toward peace and stability in the region,” Mnatsakanyan said.
“We will resolutely defend ourselves and we will also vehemently reject any policies which attempt to wield power, are aggressive in nature and are destabilizing. We see this [Turkey’s] power play from the Eastern Mediterranean to North Africa, to the Middle East and to the South Caucasus as well. So, these are not welcome policies at all,” he added.
Mnatsakanyan also touched on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process, saying sustaining the physical security of Artsakh and the recognition of its people’s right to self-determination as “ultimate priorities.”
Armenia’s foreign minister explained that working with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, Armenia is attempting to settle the conflict in a peaceful manner, and expects that each party to conflict take “respective steps toward a balanced, measurable solution, which meets everyone’s interests.”
He emphasized that the settlement cannot be a “my way or the highway” solution.
“There is no such thing as bundling conflicts together and viewing them through one single lense,” said Mnatsakanyan. “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has its unique issues, its history, its nuance, its important differences. In this context we value the very careful approach of all our partners toward a strictly peaceful resolution. There is no military solution to this.”
In discussing Ankara’s recent escalation of tensions on the Eastern Mediterranean with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, Mnatsakanyan said that Yerevan supported the latter in their feud with Turkey.
He said Armenia was following the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean closely, adding that Yerevan stands “in solidarity with Greece and Cyprus on their inalienable rights to economic activity in the exclusive economic zone in line with international law.”
“I want to also emphasize our solidarity and support to Egypt in the same way,” Mnatsakanyan added during the press conference with Shoukry.
“We are seeing serious challenges—security challenges—are expanding from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Middle East, to North Africa, the same challenges are also being faced in the South Caucasus. They are interrelated, characterized by the same sources of destabilization,” Mnatsakanyan said referring to Turkey.
“Any attempt to export instability and escalation to different regions as part of a power play is deplorable whether it is in North Africa or in the South Caucasus. Transnational threats, including that of movement or transfer of foreign terrorist fighters to conflict areas are of great concern, they are deplorable and they should be addressed,” he added.
On Tuesday, Mnatsakanyan met with Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Abul Gheit. The two discussed prospects of expanding relations between Armenia and the Arab League, emphasizing the positive role the Armenian communities in Arab countries can play in advancing those ties.
Mnatsakanyan and Abul Gheit expressed concern over the provocative actions in the Middle East and North Africa that are aimed at undermining the security of the region, and stressed the need for joint efforts by the international community to maintain and strengthen peace and stability there
After briefing the Arab League leader about developments in the Karabakh conflict settlement process, the two also discussed current situation of the Palestinian issues, as well as the humanitarian crisis plaguing Syria and Lebanon.
Mnatsakanyan also met with Egypt’s Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad al-Tayeb. The two spoke of the need for interfaith tolerance and solidarity and combatting religious discrimination and effort to exploit religion for political gain.
The meeting focused on the centuries-old Armenian-Egyptian friendship, anchored in the two peoples’ feelings of solidarity and mutual respect.
“The warm and caring attitude of the Egyptian government towards the Armenian community is really appreciated, thanks to which Armenians were able to preserve their language, culture, religion and national identity,” said Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, adding that “Egypt’s experience in protecting the rights of minorities can set a good example.”
Both sides were concerned about extremist crimes in different parts of the world, discrimination on religious grounds, and the exploitation of religion for political purposes.
In this context, the interlocutors stressed the importance of interfaith tolerance and solidarity. Minister Mnatsakanyan noted that Armenia is consistently working to protect the rights of religious groups and ensure the diversity of religions.
Armenia’s foreign minister met with the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark Pope Tawadros II.
The two deplored the targeting of religious groups by terrorist and extremist groups, emphasizing the need to protect those groups by guaranteeing their rights and preserving the religious and historical heritage.
“Armenia works with various international platforms toward the protection of the rights of vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, ensuring the diversity of religions, in order to consolidate and strengthen their potential,” Mnatsakanyan said.
On Monday, Mnatsakanyan visited the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Cathedral in Cairo and was given a tour by the Primate of the Cairo Diocese Bishop Ashot Mnatsakanyan (no relation).
On Sunday, Bishop Mnatsakanyan was joined by the leader of the Armenian Catholic Church of Egypt, Bishop Grigor Ogostinos Gusan, when the foreign minister met with members of the Armenian community.
“Thirty years ago, the Armenian people, having a powerful history and deep sense of identity, restored one of the most important instruments for the protection and development of collective identity: the statehood. And the sense of responsibility towards the statehood, freedom and independence in our communities is one of the best examples of supporting the state,” said the foreign minister.
He also emphasized the important role the Armenian community of Egypt can play in advance relations between Yerevan and Cairo.