Armenia’s two diplomatic missions in Syria are continuing to operate despite the growing likelihood of a Western military strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan said on Thursday.
The ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, cited the functioning of the Armenian Embassy in Damascus and Consulate General in Aleppo as he commented on Yerevan’s efforts to help Syria’s ethnic Armenian community cope with the latest escalation of the conflict in the Middle Eastern nation.
The existence of the community is the main official reason why Armenia is one of the few countries still maintaining diplomatic presence in Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrian Armenians have fled the country but at least as many others remain trapped there. The prospect of a U.S.-led retaliation against the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is raising more concerns in Armenia about their safety.
Balayan declined to specify just what Armenia’s government is doing to help the Armenians remaining in Syria. He reiterated past statements by Armenian officials to the effect that publicizing those efforts would be counterproductive.
Artak Zakarian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, made clear that Yerevan still has no plans to evacuate the Syrian Armenians. “Our task is to help, rather than evacuate, them,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Naira Zohrabian, a senior representative of the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), criticized this stance, saying that the situation is becoming increasingly dangerous. “It is becoming increasingly obvious that our community is in serious danger,” Zohrabian said.
But Giro Manoyan of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an opposition party that has influential branches in the worldwide Armenian Diaspora, spoke out against the evacuation. “I don’t think that there is such a need today,” he said.
Manoyan argued that U.S. warplanes and cruise missiles would hit Syrian military targets, rather than the civilian population.