YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad welcomed Armenia’s rapprochement with Turkey and offered to mediate more fence-mending negotiations between the two neighbors during an official visit to Yerevan on Wednesday.
“We in Syria have received with great satisfaction the steps that are aimed at normalization Turkish-Armenian relations,” al-Assad said after talks with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian. “I told the president of Armenia that we are ready to help move forward those relations.”
He argued that Syria is in a position to do that because of its “close relationships” with both Armenia and Turkey.
Sarkisian did not comment on al-Assad’s offer during their joint news conference. Instead, he praised the current state of Syrian-Armenian ties and stressed the need to boost bilateral economic cooperation. “Our friendship is a good example that must be showcased to both our peoples and others,” he said.
One of the two Syrian-Armenian agreements signed after the talks is meant to encourage and protect mutual investments. The two leaders will also open a Syrian-Armenian business forum on Thursday.
Al-Assad met with Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and visited Yerevan’s Matenadaran museum of ancient manuscripts later on Wednesday. He was not scheduled to visit to the Dzidzernagapert genocide memorial to more than one million Armenians systematically massacred by the Ottoman Turkish government. Foreign leaders visiting Armenia normally lay wreathes there.
The Syrian desert of Der-el-Zor, was the end point of death marches carried out by the Turkish government. Millions of Armenians died in this notorious desert. Many of those who survived the 1915-1923 genocide found refuge in Syria, a fact emphasized by Sarkisian. “The ancestors of most of the Armenians scattered around the world found salvation from the genocide at Syria’s gates,” he said.