Armenia has sent the first planeload of humanitarian aid to Lebanon following a massive explosion in Beirut which killed at least 158 people and injured thousands of others earlier this week.
About 12 tons of medication, foodstuffs and other vital supplies in boxes with an inscription “From Armenia’s Heart To Beirut” were delivered to the Lebanese capital on board a chartered cargo aircraft that left Yerevan on Saturday evening.
The Armenian government said it will send two more planeloads of humanitarian aid to Lebanon in the coming days.
The government in Yerevan pledged to provide relief aid immediately after the August 4 explosion at Beirut’s sea-port warehouses.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian described Lebanon as “one of Armenia’s closest friends,” implying the existence of a sizable and influential Armenian community in the Middle Eastern state.
At least 13 members of the community were reportedly among the victims of the explosion and more than 250 were injured. The devastating blast wave also destroyed or seriously damaged many Lebanese Armenian homes.
Zareh Sinanyan, the high commissioner for Diaspora affairs, who flew to Beirut along with some other government officials and lawmakers on August 8, said that the first planeload of humanitarian aid included items that had been asked for by the Lebanese government and was intended for the people and the state of Lebanon.
He said that the second and third planeloads of supplies to be delivered to Lebanon on August 9 and 11 will also include items designated for the Armenian community specifically.
“I find it important that the people of Lebanon understand that we remember the positive role that they played in the fate of our people when they granted asylum to Armenians fleeing the genocide [in Ottoman Turkey] and let Armenians prosper in their country for many years,” Sinanyan said.
The high commissioner for Diaspora affairs said that in Beirut he planned a series of meetings with local Armenian leaders to assess the needs of the community as well as the potential for repatriation, which has been a stated goal of the current government in Yerevan.
“There are some 40 people who have expressed their desire to move to Armenia [on a permanent basis] immediately,” Sinanyan said. “There is another, much more sizable category of people who do want to move to Armenia, but cannot do it now because they want to solve issues connected with their property affected by the explosion. So, these are people who want to come in the medium to long term.”
The blast and its devastating consequences have led to calls for the evacuation of Lebanon’s ethnic Armenian nationals willing to relocate to Armenia. Some opposition politicians and public figures as well as Lebanese-born citizens or residents of Armenia have urged the Armenian government to launch special Yerevan-Beirut flights for that purpose.
Lebanon, a nation with a population of some 6.8 million, is home to more than 150,000 ethnic Armenians, many of whom live in capital Beirut. As one of the Middle Eastern country’s minorities, Lebanese-Armenians also have their quota in top-level public positions, including in the government and parliament of Lebanon.