YEREVAN—Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has addressed a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urging action on the humanitarian crisis in Kessab, Syria, following attacks by al-Qaeda-linked forces on the Armenian town.
Armenia expresses grave concern for the Armenian inhabitants of Kessab and the surrounding twelve villages, Foreign Minister Nalbandian wrote in his letter.
“All the available evidence and geographic location of Kessab, beyond reasonable doubt suggest that the late attacks were carried out by Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups across the border from the territory of neighboring Turkey,” Nalbandian stressed.
“The brutal actions, which targeted largely the civilian population, resulted in the forced displacement of the local population.
“The extremist groups have desecrated Kessab’s Armenian churches, caused significant damage to the property of the inhabitants, registering a dark picture of egregious violations of human rights. There are only a few elderly people staying in the town who were not able to leave. Those deplorable attacks greatly undermine the implementation of unanimously adopted UNSC Resolutions 2139 and 2118, aimed at paving ways for the settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Nalbandian wrote.
The foreign minister reminded that Armenia has repeatedly stressed the importance of protecting Armenians and other minorities in Syria throughout the conflict.
“Therefore, as the humanitarian crisis continues to linger, it is very important to strongly urge the Turkish authorities to take immediate measures to prevent further use of its territory by the extremist groups,” Nalbandian wrote.
“The use of force against civilians, regardless of their ethnic and religious identity, must be unequivocally condemned. The international community should undertake resolute efforts to ensure the safety and security of displaced people, including the Armenians, facilitate conditions for their early, safe and dignified return to their places of residence and provide indispensable humanitarian assistance to address their urgent needs.”
Speaking separately on Wednesday at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the Armenian Foreign Minister said Armenia is doing its best to ensure the security of its compatriots in Syria.
Nalbandian said there were 120 thousand Armenians living in Syria before the crisis, while that number has been reduced to 50 to 80 thousand now.
“Many fled the country because of the military actions and the humanitarian crisis,” Nalbandian said. “Practically the whole population of Kessab was forced to leave the city. About 700 families are now in Latakia, 70 to 80 of them have found refuge in churches. They need humanitarian assistance. We are raising the issue at relevant institutions and are trying to provide assistance to Syrian Armenians to the extent possible,” the Foreign Minister said.
“Al-Qaeda-linked armed groups penetrated the region from Turkey. We must not allow Turkey to provide its territory for incursion into Syria and attacks on the civilian population,” Edward Nalbandian repeated in his speech at the Moscow Institute.