By Emil Danielyan and Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian leaders and dozens of ordinary people on Wednesday paid their respects to the numerous victims of the worst terrorist attacks in US history and expressed their support for the grieving Americans. Government officials extended their condolences to the families of the victims while Yerevan residents laid flowers outside the US embassy in the Armenian capital.
Flowers on the sidewalk outside US mission in Yerevan
President Robert Kocharian said he was “shocked” by the catastrophic attacks in New York and Washington which he condemned as an “inhuman and tragic violence.” “Terrorism has shown its ugly face and must be stopped with a joint resolve,” he said in a message to US President George Bush.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian described the shock wave of terror as a “crime against humanity” in his letter to US Vice President Dick Cheney. He called for the creation of a “united front against international terrorism.”
“We regard this as an onslaught not only on the United States but also peace-loving and democratic people’s of the world,” Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said for his part. “Nothing can justify such a brutal attitude to human lives,” Oskanian told reporters.
“We are confident that New York, a city which provided shelter those who had escaped violence at the beginning of the [20th] century, will itself become free of fear soon,” he added. New York was the first destination of many survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide who took refuge in America.
A similar message was sent to Washington by Catholicos Garegin II. The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church will serve a liturgy in memory of the dead at the main Armenian cathedral in Echmiadzin on Sunday.
Words of sorrow and condemnation also poured in from leaders of major Armenian parties. “Terrorism must be weeded out and the terrorists must be destroyed,” People’s Party leader Stepan Demirchian told RFE/RL. “I am confident that the US authorities will respond properly to the terrorist attacks.”
The Armenian parliament interrupted its session late on Tuesday as a token of solidarity with the American government and people.
Dozens of Armenians and representatives of local non-governmental organizations laid flowers and wreaths outside the US embassy in Yerevan. Some of them lit candles and left written messages of solidarity. “I came here because they are a worthy people living in a great country,” said one middle-aged men. The embassy was closed on Wednesday amid tightened security around it.
“We are dead scared by what happened,” said a woman in downtown Yerevan as she described her and her family’s impressions about the horrific pictures broadcast by television channels. But according to Oskanian, the Armenian authorities are not worried about the possibility of a serious destabilization of the situation in the international stage and have taken no emergency measures to that effect. “We have no security concerns, both in the political and economic sense,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Armenian embassy in Washington said it is trying to establish whether Armenian citizens were on board any of the four US passenger jets hijacked and used by the terrorists. The four airliners had 266 people aboard and there were no known survivors. Two of them were carrying out regular flights from Boston to Los Angeles, cities that with large Armenian communities.
The embassy said the two airlines that operated the flights still have no complete information about the nationality of the victims. The foreign ministry in Yerevan requested citizens to provide names of their relatives who were traveling to the four US destinations on Tuesday.