The Armenian's Diplomatic Mission in Egypt

Armenian International Magazine (AIM) April 1999, Vol. 10, No. 4, p 56-57

The Armenian [Diplomatic] Mission in Egypt
Ambassador Edward Nalbandian goes to Paris with acclamation

By Hratch Tchilingirian

Unlike countries with decades-old (even centuries-old) state apparatus and experience in diplomatic relations, the "first generation" diplomats of virtually all newly independent countries carry enormous responsibilities and challenges. In addition to representing political and economic interests of their respective countries, diplomats of new states bear the responsibility of creating new diplomatic infrastructures in their host countries with virtually no (or at best very little) state budgets. From finding, acquiring and maintaining decent embassy buildings to obtaining cars, computers, faxes and staff, the first few years for a "new diplomat" are most challenging.

One of the 30 plus ambassadors representing Armenia around the world, Ambassador Edward Nalbandian, 43, of Egypt has created an "ideal" Armenian mission in Cairo. After six years as head of Armenia's mission in Cairo, he recently became Armenia's Ambassador to France. After obtaining a doctorate degree in political science from the prestigious Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Nalbandian was sent first to Lebanon in 1978 as a diplomat and then, in 1986, appointed First Secretary of the USSR Embassy in Egypt. In 1982, Nalbandian was the youngest diplomat in the Soviet Union who was rewarded the highest diplomatic medal for his service -- the People's Friendship Medal USSR's third highest honor. When Armenia became independent, Nalbandian was invited to become Armenia's representative in Egypt in mid-1992. By October 1992, Nalbandian had established an embassy in Cairo -- one of the first embassies Armenia opened.

Egypt was also the first Middle Eastern country to be visited by the first President of Armenia, Levon Ter Petrossian, in May 1992, and one of his first foreign trips. This visit "created a solid basis for the renewal of Armenian-Egyptian relations," says Ambassador Nalbandian. "I am saying renewal because Armenian-Egyptian ties and traditional friendship date back to ancient times. We have shared much during the long course of history. In the difficult times of our history, we felt the unprejudiced support of the Egyptian people," affirms Nalbandian.

Among the three countries with Armenian embassies in the Middle East (Syria and Lebanon are the other two), Egypt is considered the most powerful Arab state and a leader in the Arab world. Nalbandian points out that Egypt "enjoys an undeniable influence and authority on the international scene, in the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, the Arab League, the Islamic Conference, the non-aligned movement, and other multinational organizations. That is why Egypt was one of the first countries where Armenia opened an embassy."

Indeed, one of the first high-ranking visits by foreign officials to Armenia after independence was by an Egyptian delegation, in January 1992, headed by then Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri. "Armenia places great political and economic importance on the development of cooperation with Egypt," says Nalbandian.

In turn, Egypt considers Armenia an important crossroads lending access to the neighboring regions. "They also very much value the political, economic, cultural and other bilateral ties with Armenia. The existence of well-organized and well-to-do Armenian [diaspora] communities in these countries is an additional impetus for enhancing more dynamic relations with Armenia. Many high ranking governmental officials in Arab countries consider Armenia as an excellent transit route and business environment for developing links with other CIS countries," explains Nalbandian.

The diplomatic mission and work of the Armenian Embassy in Egypt spreads to a number of multinational and regional organizations as well, such as the Cairo-based Arab League, the Islamic Conference, and the Organization of African Unity.

Multilingual Nalbandian, who is fluent in Arabic, represented Armenia's interests in a dozen other countries also, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Israel, South Africa and Pakistan.

The attractive embassy mansion -- located in the prestigious and exclusive Zamalek district of Cairo on the banks of the Nile and originally owned by the AGBU -- is a "monument" to the collective work of Ambassador Nalbandian and the Egyptian Armenian community. "The whole community-all sides without exception-was involved, hand in hand, in building this beautiful edifice," says Nalbandian. "This is the home of every Armenian," he continues, "We are not here to serve the local community, but we are here, together with the local Armenian community, to address the issues facing Armenia and we are here to pursue the interests of Armenia and the Armenian nation."

Hratch Tchilingirian
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