An Armenian lawmaker visiting Syria as part of a six-member parliamentary delegation to address the situation around Armenian-populated Kesab has spoken of the plight of its residents who were evacuated following last week’s attacks by Islamic militants.
More than 600 ethnic Armenian families had to flee their homes in the town situated in the northwest of Syria after armed bands believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda penetrated from nearby Turkish territory and seized the place after clashes with Syrian government troops. The Armenians took refuge in Latakia, some 60 kilometers to the south of their community.
Arman Sahakian, a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia faction in the Armenian parliament, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that many of the people they met in Latakia said that they had to leave their homes in a big hurry, by night, and so they even left their documents behind.
“But the local authorities and the Armenian community have provided urgent assistance,” he said.
The lawmaker said the Armenians from Kesab intend to return home when the situation is settled and have no plans to go to Armenia. “No one wants to emigrate from here. [During the history] the Kesab folks twice left Kesab and each time they returned. Now they are also hopeful that very soon their town will be liberated and they will be able to return there… They are very attached to their homes,” he said.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan on Wednesday said that Armenia did not consider the option of evacuating the Kesab Armenians from Syria.
Meanwhile, MP Sahakian said that Armenia would consider options to help the ethnic Armenians from Kesab otherwise based on the first-hand information that they would bring home from Syria.
“Kesab Armenians face two major problems. First of all, they have nothing, as they did not take anything with them when they were fleeing their homes. Naturally, this is a big problem. But these people also understand that when they return to their homes they will find them looted and they will need to start everything from scratch. There is a lot of room for assistance,” Sahakian concluded.
While in Damascus on Thursday members of the Armenian delegation met with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials of the country.