21 May 2006

Interview with the outgoing Ambassador of Armenia Dr. Arshak Poladian

Abu Dhabi, Embassy of Armenia, 18 May 2006

Your Excellency, Could you please give us an idea about the progress of
diplomatic ties between the Republic of Armenia and the United Arab

Diplomatic relations between Armenia and the UAE were established in 1998.
Two years later Armenia opened an Embassy in Abu Dhabi. I came here first in
April 2000. The official opening of the Embassy was on 23rd September 2000,
with the presence of the Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, members of the
diplomatic missions accredited to the UAE, senior members of the UAE
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a considerable number of Armenians.

The opening of the Embassy was a significant event. Armenians from UAE,
Qatar and Kuwait have come to witness it. There was great enthusiasm in the

Six years have passed since then. We can say that the initial two years were
the foundation years, the formation of the legal framework for our
activities. Generally speaking the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) are very important to us, not only for economic reasons but also due
to the geopolitical proximity. Oman was the first country with whom we
established diplomatic ties in 1992, followed by Kuwait in 1994 and the rest
of the countries followed few years later (except Saudi Arabia).

There is intensive cooperation between Armenia and the UAE within the
international organizations such as the United Nations. In economic and
commercial terms, the solid legislative base has been formed between the two
countries, favoring more economic exchange in the future. Until 2002, the
size of the exchanged goods between the two countries was not very high, but
today it has reached the level of 100 million dollars. Compared to other
counties this is not a huge sum, but having in mind our situation the figure
is encouraging.

We have a feeling that the cultural ties are even more developed between the
two sides.

In the cultural domain we had many achievements. We organized cultural days
in two separate occasions. We signed cultural agreement with Sharjah, the
cultural capital of the UAE. In September 2005 we hosted for the first time
the Sharjah Cultural Days in Armenia, an event that will be remembered for
long, as the Ruler of Sharjah Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi himself attended
some of the activities. These were magical days in Yerevan and several other
locations outside the capital.

Did the visit of the Ruler of Sharjah to Armenia result in any specific
agreements, besides the moral value of a visit paid by the first high
ranking Gulf personality to Armenia?

In fact it was a very successful visit. During Sheikh Sultan’s visit
educational and scientific agreements were signed between UAE and Armenian
Universities and scientific centers (including the Armenian National Academy
of Sciences and the Public University of Yerevan). Immediately after the
departure of the Sheikh his educational consultant returned to Armenia to
finalize the agreements.

We would like to express our gratitude and thanks to this great humanist
Sheikh Sultan who is really a noble Muslim. His plan to renovate historical
monastery of Haghardzin is a great expression of the historical ties between
the Arabs and the Armenians. This 10-11 centuries monastery would be
renovated with the whole surrounding infrastructure. It is a great project.
Already the project has been agreed upon and is officially ratified. Some
technical issues are remaining before the eventual start up. In fact it is a
series of projects, not a mere architectural renovation. There are plans
related to the development of the transportation routs, sewage systems,
residing locations of the monks, etc. This will bring a lot of change to the
whole area of Dilijan.

During the visit of President Kocharian to Abu Dhabi (2002), an initial
understanding was reached regarding a long term loan to be provided by the
Abu Dhabi Development Fund. I will not elaborate on this issue, but would
only say that it is being followed up by the concerned authorities.

Summarizing the status of our relations, I would like to say that UAE and
Armenia enjoy excellent relations. Since 2002 the relations have reached to
the level of exchanging Ambassadors. UAE has appointed also its
(non-resident) Ambassador to Armenia, based in Iran.

Our relations cover all domains. Generally speaking I am satisfied with what
have been done, but I would like to see further development. The Embassy has
developed multi-profile activity. Most GCC countries have their own envoys
appointed to Armenia. Kuwait also has designated a non-resident Ambassador
who happens to be in Armenia these days and would be presenting his
credentials to the officials in Yerevan.

The Speaker of the National Assembly (Parliament) Arthur Baghdassarian
visited Kuwait and Bahrain in 2005 and signed agreements with the
parliaments of those countries. In March 2006 a cultural event was organized
for the first time in Kuwait directly by our Embassy. Armenian painters
participated and the local press wrote extensively about it.

What about the relations with the other GCC countries?

The excellent relations with the UAE are affecting positively on the other
GCC counties. The only country we have problems with is Saudi Arabia. I
would like to mention here with regret that there are no diplomatic
relations between Armenia and Saudi Arabia. We believe that the problem
behind this is political and related to the issue of Nagorno Karabagh. We
hope to solve this political problem, especially that our overall policy
clearly shows that we do not have any sort of disputes with the Arab World.

We know that there have been some excellent articles about Armenia in the
local press. Could you inform us about the media contacts?

There has been also some publications, including 5 books that I personally
wrote about Armenia (culture, history, politics, etc) during my tenure. I
noticed that there was big information gap and tried to prepare some handy
publications on Armenian life for general and specific reference. My aim was
to introduce Armenia to the public. All books were in Arabic language. The
Embassy has also arranged to send journalist to Armenia. They have returned
back and published their impressions in the local press. We have done all
what we could to represent our country in the most proper way. Armenia has a
long history but still it is considered as a newcomer on the world political

What about the relations with the Armenians living in the Gulf countries?

The relations with the Armenian community in the UAE (and the other Gulf
communities) were excellent from the first moment. The opening of the
Embassy was a great change in the community life. The Armenians of the
Diaspora found themselves in front of a live presence of the motherland
Armenia. This really created a kind of enthusiasm in all sectors. I would
like to thank the community for being united in supporting us.

I would like to convey my sincere thanks to the spiritual leaders of the
community and the members of the Diocesan Council. The decision of the later
during a meeting in Kuwait in 2000 to support the opening of the Embassy had
really encouraged us to go ahead with the plan.

I would like to especially thank the Chairman of the Embassy Caretaking
Committee Varujan Narguizian (Chairman of Bank of Sharjah), who was very
active supporter of the Embassy. Through his help and the commitment of the
other members we achieved our goals. The overall outcome was a very great
impetus for the diplomatic progress of Armenia in the region. We have
cooperated also with the Prelacy and the Diocesan and National Bodies. I
would like to express my thanks to all who played a role in this.

Back in 2000 the construction of an Embassy building was almost like a
dream, but it seems that soon it will be a reality.

Yes. During the visit of President Kocharian to the UAE (2002) and as a
result of the meeting with the then President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al
Nahyan, Armenia was granted a piece of land in the diplomatic quarter (some
7.000 square meters). Based on reciprocity Armenia also gave similar piece
of land to the future building of the UAE Embassy in Yerevan.

The Embassy Caretaking Committee worked diligently for 3 years (2000-2003).
Now time has come to form a new body which will support the construction of
the Embassy’s two buildings (administrative and residential premises). This
“Construction Committee” is already headed by Varujan Narguizian. He and his
colleagues are working hard to ensure the smooth construction of the Embassy
buildings. Just few days ago we signed an agreement with a construction
company. In few days we will get the construction licence. In 15 months the
Embassy building will be ready to accept visitors. In August 2007 (or
maximum in September) we will have our own Embassy building. It is expected
that President Kocharian will pay a second visit to the UAE at the end of
next year and will officially inaugurate the Embassy.

Finally, Your Excellency, we would like to know more about your future plans
and career prospects.

I have finalized my mission in this country and I depart tomorrow with great
satisfaction. I have achieved warm contacts on all levels. I have devoted
myself to this cause. From the first moment I had great desire to fulfill
the mission of building a new Embassy. This is the gift that I can give to
our newly independent state.

I will work in the Ministry for a while. During the course of time it will
be clear where I would be heading for the next mission. As an orientalist
and expert in the Arab world, my diplomatic activity can best realize in the
Arab World.

I would like to thank the people and the leadership of the UAE headed by the
President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. I have good feelings towards
this country and its people. They supported me from the first moment.

My warmest feelings also to the Armenian community. I would like to thank
Azad-Hye for the cooperation during all these years. You have personally
arranged my first official contacts in this country from the modest room in
the Park Hotel on Khalifa Street, where I used to stay in the first few
months of my mission in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Photo by Azad-Hye: Ambassador Arshak Poladian in Abu Dhabi Embassy office.

Ambassador Arshak Poladian took the Armavia plane from Dubai to Yerevan in
the early hours of 20th May 2006.

New Ambassador Vahagn Melikian has been earlier this month. He is expected
to report duty soon.


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