Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch hosted by Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan on 29 September 2019.
Your Excellency Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia,
Madame Anna Hakobyan
Ladies and gentlemen
I thank the Prime Minister for this invitation to visit Armenia, and for the warm hospitality he has extended to me and my delegation. I am very honoured to be here in this beautiful and charming country – one of the oldest civilisations in the world.
My father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, visited Yerevan 10 years ago in 2009, 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. A framed photograph of Mr Lee’s meeting with His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch even hangs in the Armenian Church in Singapore. I am very happy now to have the chance to visit Yerevan myself, and to take our relationship further forward.
Armenia is a country that has much to offer. First, it has a well-educated workforce. You have people in the best universities and companies around the globe, flying your flag high and doing you proud. Second, a commitment to innovation. For example, through the development of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines which has transformed healthcare delivery, or inventing the automatic teller machine (ATM) which is now ubiquitous. Third, a forward-looking government led by Prime Minister Pashinyan. A government that is focussed on improving the lives of its people, enhancing governance, and attracting foreign investors. As well as offering well-considered and constructive views on international issues.
Armenia is also blessed with natural beauty and natural resources. And you are one of the world’s oldest wine making regions, making some of the world’s best wine. I have taste of the champagne and I look forward to tasting other wines at lunch.
As you know, Singapore is commemorating our Bicentennial this year – 200 years since an Englishman named Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore, and founded a free port there.
I am happy to share that the Armenian community has been with us from the very start and is one of the oldest communities in Singapore. And they have left an imprint on Singapore that is visible today. For example, our main English newspaper, The Straits Times, was co-founded by an Armenian, Catchick Moses, in 1845. And the oldest Christian Church in Singapore is the beautiful Armenian Church, which Prime Minister visited in July. 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 1700 years old! I look forward to visiting it tomorrow.
Being small states, Singapore and Armenia share many perspectives. We have had to be resilient and innovative in the face of adversity and competition from much bigger countries. Both our countries also recognise the importance of multilateralism, and we are proponents of free trade.
I therefore welcome the successful conclusion of the Framework and non-Services and Investment Agreements of the Eurasian Economic Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EAEUSFTA), as well as the bilateral Services and Investment agreement between Singapore and Armenia which we will be signing the day after tomorrow, 1st October.
I deeply appreciate Armenia’s consistent and strong support for the agreement, as Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Union, and the personal leadership of Prime Minister Pashinyan that has contributed to the FTA’s conclusion.
This FTA will complement the agreements signed during your visit in July, which spans tourism, education, and culture, and have added much substance to our relationship. I am confident that they will pave the way for stronger links between our peoples, businesses and economies.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast to the good health and success of Prime Minister Pashinyan and Madame Hakobyan and the people of Armenia; the close friendship and growing partnership between Armenia and Singapore; and the successful conclusion of the Eurasian Economic Union Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
Thank you very much.
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