YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A senior but politically inexperienced member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s party was appointed as Armenia’s new ambassador to the United States on Monday, August 2.
President Armen Sarkissian formalized the controversial appointment of Lilit Makunts with a decree initiated by Pashinyan.
Makunts, 37, taught English at Russian-Armenian University in Yerevan and did not engage in political activities before being appointed as Armenia’s culture minister in the wake of the 2018 “velvet revolution” that brought Pashinyan to power.
She held that post until being elected to the Armenian parliament in December 2018 and becoming the nominal leader of the parliamentary group of Pashinyan’s My Step bloc.
Makunts will replace Varuzhan Nersesyan, a career diplomat who handed his credentials to then President Donald Trump in January 2019. Nersesyan was appointed as Armenian ambassador to Britain last month.
Pashinyan’s plans to replace Nersesyan with Makunts were first revealed by Armenian media outlets in January, prompting strong criticism from opposition lawmakers and other critics of his government. They pointed to her lack of political and diplomatic experience.