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About two dozen Syrians of Armenian descent officially became citizens of Armenia on Thursday at a ceremony held in Damascus amid intensifying fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels.

According to the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan, they received Armenian passports from Arshak Poladian, Armenia’s ambassador to Syria, with “a great deal of enthusiasm and gratitude.”

A ministry statement said Poladian stressed the importance of granting Armenian citizenship to ethnic Armenians around the world. “The ambassador then wished the new citizens of Armenia success and peace,” said the statement.

According to immigration authorities in Yerevan, at least 6,000 Syrian nationals of Armenian descent have applied for Armenian citizenship since the outbreak of the bloody conflict in Syria early last year. It is not clear how many of them have already been granted one.

The Armenian government decided last July to allow successful applicants to receive their new passports at Armenia’s Embassy in Damascus and Consulate General in Aleppo. Naturalized citizens were until then required to pick them only at immigration police offices in Yerevan.

The measure was part of government efforts to facilitate immigration of Syrian Armenians, which has gained momentum this year. According to government estimates, more than 5,000 of them have taken refuge in their historical homeland to date.
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