ETCHMIADZIN, Armenia—The two-day international consultations on the “Crisis in Syria: Challenges to Religious Communities” began at the Mother See of Holy Etchimadzin in Armenia on Wednesday. The meeting opened with a prayer by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. Participating in the conference are representatives of Christian Churches from the Middle East, Syria, Russia, Europe, and the United States.
Ambassadors from Iran, Germany, Italy, and Russia, representatives of the UN Office in Yerevan, Armenian diplomats, and representatives of the Syrian Armenian community were present at the opening of the meeting.
Speaking at the meeting, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian voiced hope that it would contribute to the establishment of political and inter-religious dialogue in Syria.
“We feel pain when we witness the long-lasting domestic political crisis in the Middle East, particularly Syria, which grew into a civil war that has claimed countless human lives and caused irreversible losses,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the Syrian crisis had painful consequences for Christian institutions, as well. He said any attempt to construe the nature of the conflict as religious is reprehensible, as “we are confident that all religions preach peace.”
“Throughout its centuries-long history the Armenian people have paid with blood for their peace and independence. The Armenian authorities are making great efforts to solve the Karabakh issue in a peaceful way through negotiations on the basis of internationally accepted principles and norms, at the same time respecting the right of self-determination of the people of Artsakh,” the Prime Minister said.
“We are a nation subjected to genocide at the turn of the 20th century and deprived of its historic homelands –Western Armenia. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide the Armenian people again experienced that bitter pain, when in the spring of the current year, radical groups supported by Turkey attacked the Armenian-populated city of Kessab in Syria,” Abrahamian stated.
The Prime Minister voiced hope that the recent presidential elections in Syria would contribute to the launching of dialogue to solve the existing problems and reconstruct the country.
The two-day consultations will focus on the following topics: “Political developments in Syria and the humanitarian perspective,” “The Presence and of Christians in the Middle East and testimonies of developments in the Arab World,” “The Armenian communities in the Middle East and Syria and their perspectives.”