Greece’s foreign ministry came under strong criticism by the opposition and Armenian groups after the country’s ambassador to Azerbaijan joined dozens of other diplomats in a propaganda tour of occupied areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Greek Ambassador Nikolaos Piperigos was among the diplomats who toured the occupied town Shushi in Artsakh after an invitation of the Azerbaijani foreign ministry over the weekend. Azerbaijan thereby scored a propaganda victory by claiming that the international community supported its military adventures against Armenia.
The Armenian National Committee of Greece sent an open letter to Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, expressing the anger of Greece’s Armenian community. Opposition leaders in Greece, including former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, blasted the decision of the Ambassador to visit Shushi.
Kotzias called the decision “a shame”, adding that Greece celebrated the defeat of Armenia by Azerbaijan. “It is one thing to support the Azeris and another to celebrate the defeat and destruction of the Armenians. The Foreign Ministry should have been aware of this.”
The Armenian National Committee of Greece in the letter to Dendias highlighted the parallels between Azerbaijan and Turkey. The visit of foreign diplomats to Shushi was “similar to the provocative fiestas organized by Erdogan in occupied Cyprus,” they charged.
“Shameful fiesta” by Azerbaijan
The Armenian group said that “the shameful fiesta was intended to disorient public opinion from the horrific crimes of Azerbaijan,” and reminded Greece of the European Parliament’s resolution in late May, criticizing Azerbaijan for its criminal practices against Armenia and Artsakh.
“We believe that the presence of the representatives of the states, but mainly of Greece, encourages the outrageous and arrogant regime of President Aliyev,” the letter notes.
Addressing Dendias, the letter continues: “You know very well that Azerbaijan, by faithfully copying its mentor (Turkey), is grossly violating the rules of international law. What is the purpose of the support provided by Greece in this critical time? Armenia considers Greece as her most important ally. We want to believe that the same is true for Greece.”
There has been no official reaction from Dendias or the Greek foreign ministry at this point.
Greece, Armenia historic ties
Greece has centuries-old bonds of friendship with the eastern country, and unfortunately the two peoples share many painful experiences as well, since Greeks and Armenians suffered greatly at the hand of the modern Turkish state in the early twentieth century.
Up until the 5th century AD, Armenians used the Greek alphabet in writing their language. During the Byzantine period, Greeks and Armenians coexisted in complete amity in the great Orthodox state of the East. The Armenian Orthodox Church, which is the first Orthodox church in the world to be officially recognized, followed parallel paths with the Greek Orthodox Church.
The ties of the two peoples were forged more intensely during the period under Turkish rule which was sealed by two great catastrophes: the defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the fall of Constantinople, in 1453.
They were connected with the wider political, economic, social, cultural, national and religious developments of the region. Armenians and Greeks shared the same fate, lived for centuries in common homes, and shared experiences and cultural identities, leading them to bond in many ways.
Perhaps most meaningful of all, however, is the fact that the two peoples were victims of the same perpetrator. In the first Armenian massacres of the 1890s, the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the Pontian Genocide of the same period, the two peoples were slaughtered by the Turks and faced the same tragic fate of forced expatriation and exile.