Was Armenia’s UN Jerusalem Vote Wasted?

Armenia’s United Nations Jerusalem “in favor” vote appears to be the least advantageous option it could have chosen. This opinion is based on prevailing political conditions rather than an ideological premise. The four voting options were:

1) Vote against the resolution (in favor of Trump’s recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital)

2) Vote for the UN resolution (against Trump’s recognition)

3) Abstain from the vote

4) Claim to have been stuck in NY traffic (that is, not be present for the vote)

Armenia’s UN mission could have easily exercised option 4 — or better yet — negotiated with the Israelis. There are prudent reasons for this conclusion.

The following is the official Armenian position noted by Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, “Armenia has already expressed its position on the status of Jerusalem and has not changed it. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most important issues on the international agenda and should be solved through the negotiations within the context of the acceptable solution for the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This can pave the way for the establishment of a lasting peace and security”. This position tends to hinder diplomatic adaptation.

Regardless of US President Trump’s interpretation of international norms and the poisoning of even the facade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the status of Jerusalem changed on December 6, 2017. The Armenian Foreign Ministry’s position became forthwith rhetorical, as were the views of some other countries expressing similar rationale.

Few places remain, outside of Armenia, where Armenians have a say, and one of those is in Jerusalem. The Armenians have a distinctive position in the Old City. There are four quarters of the Old City: the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter. The Armenian Quarter, home to about 4,000 ethnic Armenians is distinct from the Christian Quarter. Through the Armenian Apostolic Church, along with the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, Old City Armenians control a part of every significant Christian Holy Site in the region. This role is unique.

Armenia is not associated with Israeli-Palestinian relations, but did the Armenian government or Armenia’s UN Mission talk with the Israelis or Palestinians about the upcoming vote? There was no announcement either way, by any party, and we are left with inference and posing valid hypotheses for the best estimation. Since Armenia’s position “has not changed,” it can be hypothesized that if there were discussions they had zero gains for Armenians, Palestinians, or Israelis. The chances of this are low and any discussions probably would not have stayed covert. These are assumptions of course, but if Armenia waved its flag, I am sure the Israelis would have jumped at the opportunity to at least talk and made it known. After all, an Armenian vote at the UN is a full vote, such as Italy’s. There was plenty the Armenian government could have discussed and possibly negotiated regarding their interests and the concerns of Jerusalem Armenians and their role in the Old City. These could have included issues of employment, education, reducing pressure to sell land, etc. One wonders why Armenian interests in Jerusalem were not enhanced, guaranteed, or at least kept from deteriorating in talks with Israeli officials before the UN vote. Will conditions deteriorate further? They might. Would Islamic countries degrade their relations with Armenia if it voted “against” the resolution or at least abstained? No country degraded or severed relations with the United States between Trump’s December 6 declaration and the day of the UN vote. That should have been a clue. It is noteworthy that no country severed relations with Israel since the declaration or vote, not even Turkey, the sponsor of the UN resolution. Also, Armenia could have abstained from voting, refusing to be part of Turkey’s opportunistic demagoguery.

In reaction to the resolution and Armenia’s vote, Armenian public sentiment on social media expressed concern about the billions of dollars of advanced technology arms sold to Azerbaijan by Israel destined to be used against Armenians, and anti-Armenian propaganda penned by a handful of Jewish writers. These parochial reactions are ephemeral and mutually exclusive of the opportunity Armenia may have wasted in this vote. Turks on social media railed against Turkmenistan and other ethnic religious brethren for their no-show status, noting Armenia’s vote.

We are left to speculate as to any elusive political reasons at play with Armenia’s Jerusalem vote.

About the Author
David Davidian is a lecturer at the American University of Armenia. He has spent over a decade in technical intelligence analysis at major high technology firms.
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