Canada Appoints Veteran Diplomat as Ambassador to New Embassy in Armenia

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In a recent move to strengthen ties with nations veering away from Russia’s influence, Canada’s government has heralded the appointment of ambassador Andrew Turner. Turner, a seasoned diplomat, is slated to lead a freshly minted embassy in Armenia, a nation neighbouring a region racked with intensifying military tension in Azerbaijan.

Turner brings extensive experience from his past assignments in the Middle East, and his contribution to Ottawa’s response to the Armenia-Azerbaijan strain is notable. His new role at Yerevan, where Canada plans to inaugurate an embassy next month, reflects the Liberal’s strategic shift towards fostering alliances with nations extricating from Russia’s dominion.

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Part of this affinity towards Armenia can be attributed to the substantial Armenian diaspora in Canada, an aspect that has led the Liberals to actively voice Armenian concerns in the House of Commons. Earlier this year, Stephane Dion, the ambassador to the European Union and a former foreign minister, lauded Armenia’s commitment to democracy and suggested ways Canada could bolster its nascent political system. The endorsement came amidst the full-blown invasion of Ukraine by Russia, further driving the need to support democracy in the region.

June 2022 witnessed Foreign Affairs Minister, Melanie Joly, declaring Canada’s plans to inaugurate a new embassy. This strategic move is expected to bolster Ottawa’s understanding of the Caucasus region and aid the formulation of its response to evolving security threats. The embassy will also facilitate visa services for foreigners and passport services for Canadians.

In the backdrop of this diplomatic development, disturbing reports of potential ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Armenians in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region have emerged, according to Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations. This region, internationally reckoned as Azerbaijan’s terrain, homes around 120,000 ethnic Armenians and has been a contentious site, fighting for autonomy following the Soviet Union’s disintegration.

Presently, amidst a declared ceasefire, ethnic Armenians are fleeing to Armenia en masse, spurred by fears of military uptick or political repression under Azerbaijan’s authoritarian regime. This mass evacuation, Rae stressed, signals a severe diplomatic failure.

Joly has urged Azerbaijan to cease escalating tensions. Concurrently, introducing sanctions against violators of human and international rights in Azerbaijan has been advocated by the NDP.

In the current scenario, Canada doesn’t boast of an embassy in either country but resolves issues in Azerbaijan through diplomats in Turkey. Meanwhile, a consulate was established in Armenia last year, overseen by diplomats based in Moscow.

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