21 February 2008

Ambassador Poladian begins his new mission in Damascus

Azad-Hye special

Dr. Arshak Poladian is known to the Gulf Armenians as the first Ambassador of Armenia in the United Arab Emirates and a non-resident Ambassador of Kuwait and Bahrain. Now his new mission is based in the country where he was born, long before his eventual immigration to Armenia with his family at the age of 13.

Azad-Hye had the following interview with Ambassador Poladian:

What are your impressions about Damascus?

I am very happy that I am in Damascus. I feel intimacy towards this city and Syria in general, especially as it is a friendly country. Syria has always been and will continue to be an integral part of the Armenian-Arab cultural and historical sphere. With Syria we have centuries old relations.

The Armenian population has lived in Syria since unmemorable times and has developed very active presence in both the past and present, in political, trade, economical and cultural fields.

Considering the importance of this country, Armenia - right after its independence - established one of its first foreign representations in Damascus (November 1992), and having in mind the existence of a large community in Aleppo, we established a General Consulate there soon afterwards (March 1993).

I have always mentioned in my interviews that despite the immense problems that we were facing during the early 1990s, we managed to overcome the crisis situation and with the help of the community here, we established two diplomatic centers, Embassy in Damascus and Consulate in Aleppo, the third of such instance in our diplomatic reality after the United States of America and the Russian Federation.

How can you describe the course of the relations between Armenia and Syria?
The bilateral relations had a very intensive beginning. There were highest level delegations, exchange of visits, etc. The legal-contractual field was almost completely covered, but in recent years, we might say, a certain drop of cooperation between the two countries was recorded, especially - I have to underline - in the trade sector, although Syria is one of the geographically closest countries to Armenia, but, sadly, the exchange between the two countries is at the level of only two million dollars annually. The overall situation as explained above worries the leadership of our countries. Both Presidents have mentioned this fact and asked me to move forward to change the situation, especially in view of the friendship between the two countries. I have been appointed to my position here to make this idea work. I have specific recommendations from the authorities in Armenia, primarily from His Excellency the President Robert Kocharian, who has recommended to do whatever possible to raise the level of the relationship.

The works have started in this direction. I am here for one and half month now*, during which, I presented my credentials to His Excellency President Dr. Bashar Al Assad on 7th October 2007, five days after my arrival, and since then my official tenure has started.

During this short period of time I had several meetings with members of the Syrian government, including Vice President Dr. Najah Al Attar. These meetings will naturally be continued, but on the same time I am trying to cover the whole country, without limiting myself to Damascus. Already I have visited Aleppo and met with the Governor and with various Armenian organizations and representatives of spiritual and civil society.

Tomorrow I will start my visit to the Syrian Al Jazira region. I will be visiting Hassakeh and Der Zor, where it is scheduled to meet with Governors.

I will have a special visit to the monument of our martyrs. I will certainly visit also our churches and meet with members of Armenians associations in the region. I would like to listen to the people, understand how they live and what they think about their country, what plans they have in their minds, what suggestions they would make. In other words, I am trying to have all-around approach to all subjects and provide possible solutions in due course.

How do assess the attitude of the Syrian authorities towards your mission?

Listen High honors have been bestowed upon me by the Syrian government and I have felt the warmth of this country and the very kind attitude of its political leadership in the person of President Bashar Al Assad. His Excellency highly appreciates the role of the Armenian community in Syria and has very serious approach regarding the Syrian-Armenian cooperation. Therefore the political will is there from both sides, there is a fertile soil to develop the cooperation, and we, the diplomats, should take advantage of these favorable circumstances and turn all expectations into reality, for the benefit of our both countries and peoples.

*Interview taken on 27 November 2007

Photo: Ambassador Dr. Arshak Poladian in his Damascus office.

P.S.: Ambassador Poladian conveys his best wishes to the Armenians in the Gulf countries, assuring that he carries the best memories from his experience there.

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