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Greece Must Recognize Artsakh to Atone Envoy’s Propaganda Tour

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Foreign diplomats visit occupied Shushi, July 9, 2021. Credit: AZERTAC, Azerbaijan State News Agency

Greece’s foreign ministry came under strong criticism by the opposition and groups from Armenia after the country’s ambassador to Azerbaijan joined dozens of other diplomats in a propaganda tour of occupied areas in Artsakh. Harut Sassounian says that Greece must now recognize Artsakh to atone for the scandalous tour.

By Harut Sassounian

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Azerbaijan’s despotic government organized a scandalous propaganda tour of occupied Shushi and Hadrut on July 9-10, 2021 to “proudly” display to foreign ambassadors its barbaric attack on the civilian population of Artsakh and partial destruction of one of its most sacred Armenian cathedrals.

Before I present the list of countries that exposed their hostility to Armenia by participating in this tour, it is important to note that the ambassadors of France, Russia and the United States, who are members of the OSCE Minsk Group, refused to take part in this charade, to the chagrin of the Azeri government. The Minsk Group thus indicated that it had no interest in Azerbaijan’s pompous show. Contrary to the repeated statements of Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, the Minsk Group still considers the status of Artsakh not resolved. The absence of these three major countries from this propaganda tour is a slap in the face of the Azeri government.

Greece among those participating in tour of Artsakh

The 46 countries that shamelessly participated in this scandalous tour of the city of Shushi are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Korea, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine and Venezuela. There are 63 foreign embassies in Azerbaijan, which means that 17 countries refused to participate in the propaganda tour, including Argentina, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain and India, in addition to France, Russia and the United States.

The countries that took part in the Azeri tour should be severely criticized and condemned by all Armenians, particularly by those who live in these countries. Demonstrations must be organized in front of their embassies as well as in Yerevan and protest letters sent to their governments.

Of course, the most shameful participant in this tour is the ambassador of Greece, a country that is supposed to be a friend of Armenia. In addition to betraying Armenia, Greece violated its own interests and principles by taking part in this scandalous tour.

Greek ambassador Nikolaos Piperigos must have forgotten that during the height of the Artsakh War last year, the Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Dendias visited Yerevan to show his country’s solidarity with Armenia. He also forgot the insulting and undiplomatic words Pres. Aliyev used to address him during the presentation of his credentials in Baku.

I am pleased that the Greek media and Armenian community of Greece responded harshly to the Greek ambassador’s disastrous visit to Shushi and called on the Greek Foreign Minister to appear in Parliament to provide an explanation. It is unclear whether Piperigos obtained the approval of his government prior to his tour of Shushi. If he did, that makes it an even bigger scandal. However, if the Greek Ambassador had not secured his country’s approval prior to his visit to Shushi, which is unlikely, then he should be immediately fired!

Rather than showing gratitude to Greece, Azerbaijan disrespected its submissiveness by sending its first parliamentary delegation to the Turkish-occupied so-called Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. There are reports that Azerbaijan may soon recognize the statehood of Northern Cyprus. If that happens, Greece should immediately dispatch its ambassador in Yerevan to Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, and announce its recognition of the Republic of Artsakh. This would be the only way that Greece can atone for its envoy’s indiscretion and deliver a proper response to Azerbaijan’s recognition of Northern Cyprus.

The Armenian National Committee of Greece, as well as the ANCs of Belgium and the Netherlands, filed complaints with their respective governments. Similar protest actions should be taken in other participating countries, particularly the governments of Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Armenia condemns visit of diplomats

I am pleased that the Foreign Ministries of Armenia and Artsakh issued statements condemning the visit of the foreign ambassadors in Baku to Shushi: “The Republic of Armenia considers utterly unacceptable the visit of diplomatic representatives accredited in Azerbaijan to the occupied territories of Artsakh, including Hadrut and the historical center of Artsakh—Shushi, regions which were ethnically cleansed and their population was the subject of war crimes and other mass atrocities committed by Azerbaijani armed forces during the recent aggression.” The Armenian Foreign Ministry emphasized that by arranging such events “the Azerbaijani authorities are trying to legitimize the aggression against the people of Artsakh and to strengthen their own claims of having resolved the conflict by force,” handing down a “note verbale,” or a note of protest addressed to the participant countries.

Rather than visiting the occupied territories of Artsakh, the foreign ambassadors in Baku should have issued a joint statement condemning Azerbaijan for importing Syrian terrorists to fight in the 2020 Artsakh War; committing war crimes, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of Armenian religious and historical monuments; and continuing to hold captive Armenian prisoners of war 10 months after the end of the conflict in violation of international law and the agreement signed by the heads of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on Nov. 9, 2020.

At every opportunity, citizens of Armenia should remind the foreign ambassadors accredited to Yerevan of the unacceptable participation of their colleagues in the Shushi tour. Similarly, Armenians living in the offending ambassadors’ countries should express their displeasure to their governments. By continuing to complain about this visit, Armenians will ensure that these countries and their ambassadors in Azerbaijan will think twice before they agree to participate in other propaganda activities on behalf of Azerbaijan.

The only proper response to Azerbaijan’s PR actions is for the Armenian government to organize a tour of Stepanakert, Artsakh, for the foreign ambassadors accredited to Yerevan. Will the Armenian government dare to make such a move, and would it succeed in carrying it out? However, before embarking on such an initiative, PM Nikol Pashinyan must fill the post of foreign minister, which has been vacant for two months.

Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization. He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The article was first published in the Armenian Weekly and is republished here with the author’s permission.

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