Armenia has much to offer with well-educated workforce, innovation and forward-looking government: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meets President of the Republic of Armenia Dr Armen Sarkissian at the Armenian Governmental Residence in Yerevan, Armenia, on Sept 29, 2019. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

YEREVAN, ARMENIA - Armenia is a country which has much to offer, with a well-educated workforce, a commitment to innovation, and a forward-looking government led by its Prime Minister, Mr Nikol Pashinyan, said Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Sept 29).

As a small state, it also shares many similar perspectives with Singapore - having to be resilient and innovative in the face of adversity and competition from much bigger countries, said Mr Lee, who is on a four-day official visit to Armenia.

"Both our countries also recognise the importance of multilateralism, and we are proponents of free trade," he noted.

Giving a toast at an official lunch hosted by Mr Pashinyan, Mr Lee praised Armenia for having a well-educated workforce and having people in the best universities and companies across the globe, flying the country's flag high.

He also highlighted Armenia's commitment to innovation, citing the development of the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine which has transformed healthcare delivery, and the invention of the ATM (automated teller machine), which is now ubiquitous.

Mr Lee said that the government led by Mr Pashinyan is focused on improving the lives of its people, enhancing governance, and attracting foreign investors. It also offers well-considered and constructive views on international issues, he added.

In his speech, Mr Lee highlighted the historical ties between Armenia and Singapore, which go back 200 years, from when Sir Stamford Raffles founded a free port in Singapore.

He noted that the Armenian community is one of Singapore's oldest communities and it has left an imprint on Singapore that remains visible today.

For example, Singapore's main English broadsheet, The Straits Times, was co-founded by an Armenian, Mr Catchick Moses, in 1845, and the oldest Christian Church in Singapore is the Armenian Church.

"It was built 184 years ago, which by Armenian standards is not so very long, especially compared to your Etchmiadzin Cathedral, which is the oldest cathedral in the world at 1,700 years old," said Mr Lee, adding that he was looking forward to visiting it during his time in Armenia.

Mr Lee said his father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, visited the Armenian capital Yerevan 10 years ago, when he was Minister Mentor. "He told me about the beauty and abundance of your country, and deeply appreciated the hospitality that was extended to him. That visit was a milestone in our bilateral relations," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Pashinyan said in his toast that for Armenia, Singapore is a country towards which it has "special, warm feelings". During his delegation's visit to Singapore in July, they were "truly touched by the care with which Armenian heritage is preserved" there, he added.

Mr Pashinyan said that Mr Lee's visit is testament to the growing ties and cooperation between the two countries on the bilateral front, as well as on multilateral platforms.

Both leaders also welcomed the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, parts of which will be signed on Tuesday. Armenia is one of five member states in the EAEU.

During a joint press conference earlier, Mr Lee also said that while Singapore and Armenia may be geographically distant, the potential of the relationship to develop and grow is always there.

On the international front, for example, Armenia is a member of the Forum of Small States, and both countries work together at the United Nations to protect their interests.

Mr Lee, who arrived in Yerevan last Saturday, was given an official welcome ceremony at the Governmental Residence on Sunday, and he met Mr Pashinyan and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian.

Both Mr Lee and President Sarkissian reaffirmed the warm ties between Singapore and Armenia, and discussed how to grow the bilateral relationship. They also discussed global trends and possible collaborations in technology and innovation.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.