Most memorable MidEast interviews of 2021

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, Arab News

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, Arab News
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Updated 31 December 2021

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, Arab News

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, Arab News

Network: Arab News

Release date: Dec. 23, 2021

Main topics: Diplomatic relationship with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Azerbaijan conflict

In his first-ever interview with a Saudi media outlet, President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian sat down with Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News.

Sarkissian lamented the lack of diplomatic relationships between Armenia and Saudi Arabia, adding: “It’s unfortunate that for more than 30 years of our independence, we didn’t have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.”

He shared written correspondence with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which resulted in his trip to the Kingdom in October 2021, making him the first Armenian official to visit the Kingdom.

President Sarkissian said that he was aware of Saudi Arabia’s concerns regarding Iran. But, owing to being a landlocked state, he added: “We have to take make choices that are very specific to us.” When pressed by Abbas on the “nature of Armenia’s relationship” with Iran, he said that Tehran “does not interfere” in his country’s military and security affairs.

On infrastructure and energy, the leader said that Armenia has “much deeper relations with the UAE, for example, with Masdar building a new solar station in Armenia.”

The interview also covered the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The president asserted that it was not a religious war, adding: “Armenia has wonderful relations with a lot of states where Islam is a major religion, or even states where Islam is the only religion, or states that have Islam as a state religion.”

Sarkissian took the opportunity to thank the Arab world and the Middle East for helping those who fled their homes more than 100 years ago amid the Armenian genocide. He also expressed his desire to support the wider Armenian diaspora, saying he wants to help the Armenian community in Lebanon so they can continue to live there.

Sarkissian (left) told Abbas (right) that a timeline for exchanging ambassadors and opening embassies is a matter for the relevant departments in his government and the Saudi Foreign Ministry. (Ziyad AlArfaj)

He also stated his intentions to change the Armenian constitution. Currently, an Armenian from abroad cannot become a minister unless they have lived in the country for the last four years or have an Armenian passport — something Sarkissian considers “complete nonsense.”

He said: “Imagine a Gulf state that decided not to use oil. Our oil is our people.”