Armenian Ambassador Vahram Kazhoyan presented Letters of Credence to Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong in 2019.

So said Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Vietnam Vahram Kazhoyan in an interview with the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper on the occasion of the lunar New Year.

Reporter: Diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Armenia were established on July 14, 1992, and the two countries have maintained and reinforced their good political relations. Over the past years, Vietnam and Armenia have held high-level delegations and meetings between the leaders of the two countries, regularly coordinating and supporting each other at international forums. Could you share more about the diplomatic relationship between the two countries at present?

Ambassador Vahram Kazhoyan: Thanks to the Communist Party of Online Newspaper for this opportunity to present my views on the Armenian-Vietnamese relations. Armenian-Vietnamese relations have both historic and modern aspects. According to a number of historic documents and maps, Armenian merchant ships have sailed to Vietnam since the 12th century. The significant new page in our modern history started with the visit of President Ho chi Minh to Armenia in July 1959. During this historic visit, Ho Chi Minh was in the Armenian capital Yerevan and a number of regions of the country. He had meetings with Armenian officials, as well as the workers, farmers, intellectuals and pioneers of Armenia. It is also important to mention that since the early 50s till the beginning of the 90s almost two thousand Vietnamese students have studied and graduated from the higher and technical institutions of Armenia.

Since Armenia's Independence in 1991, the relations between our two countries have entered a new stage of development. The first official exchange took place in December 1992 when the delegation headed by the Vice-President of Armenia Gagik Harutyunian visited Vietnam. I had the privilege to be a member of the said Delegation. Little did I know in 1992 that I would return to Vietnam in 2019 as Armenia's Ambassador.

It is quite correct that Armenia and Vietnam have successfully developed their political relations both bilaterally and multilaterally – in the United Nations, UNESCO, etc. Our countries have supported each other’s initiatives and candidatures in different international organizations.

Reporter: The official working visit to Vietnam by Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashiyan in 2019 aimed to further strengthen the friendship and traditional cooperation between Vietnam – Armenia; exchange measurements to promote cooperation in potential fields such as trade, investment, education – training, culture and tourism; discuss the regional and global issues of common interest. Would you please share how the multi-faceted cooperation between Vietnam and Armenia has been effectively implemented since then?

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashiyan in his visit to Vietnam in 2019 (Photo: VNA)

Ambassador Vahram Kazhoyan: You are quite right, a new impetus to Armenian-Vietnamese relations was given with the visit of Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Vietnam in July 2019. Many important decisions and agreements were reached during that visit, namely about the expansion of trade-economic ties, tourism and cultural activities. As a follow-up to those agreements, the Embassy of Armenia in Vietnam has undertaken a number of practical steps.

On October 21, 2019, on behalf of the Armenian Government, I have signed the Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the Sphere of Tourism.

Our Embassy has made relevant arrangements to organise a FAM trip to Armenia for over a dozen Vietnamese Travel and Tourism companies, in order to start regular tour group visits to Armenia. Unfortunately, this trip that was supposed to take place in May-June 2020, was postponed because of COVID-19.

Similarly, we had to postpone the Second Meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on economic, trade and scientific and technical cooperation, together with the planned Business Forum in Armenia. However, we are proceeding with all of the activities that could be done meanwhile. We succeeded in bringing famous Armenian Ararat cognac to Vietnam’s duty-free market, and hopefully, soon also to general sales. We are proceeding with the facilitation of a larger assortment of Armenian food products to the Vietnamese market.

Reporter: Although the political relationship between the two countries has always been very good, the volume of bilateral economy and trade remains modest compared to the size of our potential. It is known that the Embassy of Armenia in Vietnam is planning to organize a Vietnam - Armenia business forum to enhance mutual understanding; creating a solid basis for the expansion and development of cooperation relations in economy - trade, investment and other fields in the future. In your opinion, in the coming time, what specific policies and actions should the two countries' governments and business communities take to strengthen this cooperative relationship?

Ambassador Vahram Kazhoyan: The organization of the postponed Second Meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on economic, trade and scientific and technical cooperation, together with the planned Business Forum, is definitely on our agenda. Meanwhile, we have to prepare the required basis for the larger trade-economic cooperation. That would include preparation of a number of food-safety protocols.

The fact that Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, together with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and Vietnam has signed a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, that was signed in May, 2015 and has already been ratified, opens up wide horizons for mutually beneficial trade between Armenia and Vietnam.

Reporter: In 2013, the Republic of Armenia opened the Embassy in Vietnam. Could you share your impression on the country and the people of Vietnam since you took the role of Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to our country?

Ambassador Vahram Kazhoyan: Armenia does not have many Embassies worldwide, there are only five Embassies in the larger Asian regions – New Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo, Djakarta and Hanoi. Our Embassy is accredited also to Lao PDR, Cambodia and the Philippines. The Armenian Embassy opened here in Hanoi in order to further develop our already existing good bilateral relations. This decision was based on the mutual agreement to open Embassies in both capitals and we are still awaiting the opening of the Embassy of Vietnam in Yerevan.

I am already the second resident Ambassador of Armenia in Vietnam. I arrived in Hanoi on July 18, 2019, and presented my Letters of Credence to Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong on August 7, 2019. As I mentioned above, I had visited Vietnam earlier, in 1992. I must say that in 2019 I found a totally different country. I am personally witnessing the fast and efficient development of Vietnam even within the short period that I have been in the country. During this period, I have come to love the picturesque country of Vietnam and its proud, kind and hard-working people. And I am very glad that Vietnam and its beautiful touristic sites are among the favourite destinations for Armenian tourists. I hope that I will have enough time to see many beautiful places in Vietnam.

Reporter: What are your assessments of Vietnam’s role as Chairman of ASEAN in 2020, as well as non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in the term of 2020 – 2021?

Ambassador Vahram Kazhoyan: 2020 was not another regular calendar year in the modern history of humanity: the world faced an unprecedented pandemic. Certainly, it also became a special year for Vietnam, the country that showed the best results in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. But it was also a special year for Vietnam, in terms of its multilateral diplomacy – the Presidency of ASEAN for 2020 and non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council, that started with the Presidency of the Security Council on the first day of the first month of its membership. All of these were real challenges for Vietnam, new realities and the need to adjust to those realities in an atmosphere where almost everything had  to be conducted online. Now that the year 2020 is behind us, we can unconditionally say that Vietnam did a perfect job in all of these spheres, spearheading ASEAN into next year and smoothly continuing its membership in the UN Security Council.

The decisions adopted at the XIII National Party Congress will steadfastly steer Vietnam through 2021-2025, as well as until 2045 and further.

Reporter: As an Ambassador, what do you wish to contribute to promoting bilateral relations between the two countries in the future?

I believe that apart from having good political relations, the countries need to have practical expressions of those good relations – we certainly need more official exchanges. During the visit of the Armenian Prime Minister to Vietnam an invitation was extended to the Prime Minister of Vietnam for a follow-up visit to Armenia. There are a number of agreements to be signed and visits to be conducted in the near future. But I also attach major importance to the people-to-people ties. To do this, we need to open up to each other. Apart from bilateral tourism, I would like to be able to make it possible to show the rich Armenian history and culture to the Vietnamese people, as well as to demonstrate the Vietnamese culture to the people in Armenia. These could be done by means of exhibitions and musical performances in Armenia and in Vietnam, highlighting each other’s rich cultural, historical and modern heritage.

Reporter: On the occasion of the New Year, I would like to wish you good health, happiness and success! Sincerely thank you for your interview!

P.H