BEIRUT (Aztag)—In response to President Serzh Sarkisian’s trip to Beirut, the Lebanese-Armenian community Tuesday announced a strike and began marching, in the thousands, to Metropolitan Hotel, where the president was meeting community organizations.
On Monday night, hundreds of members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Zavarian” Student Organization and the ARF Youth of Lebanon greeted the president with their protests at the Beirut international airport.
The caravan of protesters, holding signs and chanting “Stop to Protocols,” “Votch (No!)” and “the blood of Armenians not up for sale,” arrived from Bourdj Hammoud to the hotel, where His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia addressed the crowd before entereing the meeting. He told the protesters the Cilician Catholicosate will stay true to the Armenian Cause and the struggle.
Last week, the Catholicos sent a letter to President Sarkisian expressing his dissatisfaction with the protocols and cautioning the Armenian leader about the detrimental effects of the protocols. Before embarking on his Diaspora tour, Sarkisian had a telephone conversation with the Catholicos.
Agence France Presse reported that some demonstrators clashed briefly with anti-riot police who were deployed around the hotel, and a handful of people were lightly injured by batons.
ARF Lebanon Central Committee member Avo Gidanian read out the ARF’s message that was delivered to the president during the meeting.
“After nearly 100 years of fighting for our cause, how can our enemy become our friend in the blink of an eye,” asked a visibly angry Koko Marashlian, a store owner in Bourdj Hammoud told the AFP.
Hagop Pakradouni, one of six Armenian deputies in Lebanon’s parliament, said the community was all for improved ties between Armenia and Turkey but not at any price. “This issue concerns Armenians worldwide and not just those in Armenia,” Pakradouni told AFP.
“We are not talking about a simple economic accord between two countries but a historic one that concerns each Armenian family, whatever its nationality,” he said.
Community members have drawn up a petition condemning the agreements set to be signed later this month between Turkey and Armenia on establishing diplomatic ties.
“We remember, we demand, we refuse,” read placards put up throughout Bourdj Hammoud
“These agreements will sound the death knell of our cause,” store-owner Marashlian said. “As descendants of those exiled, we are the main victims of these agreements.”
On Monday night, thousands gathered at a political rally and candle-light vigil with members of the three political parties, religious denominations and youth and students organizations in attendance to express a unified stance against the protocols.
On the last leg of his tour, President Sarkisian in scheduled to visit the Russian-Armenian community is Rostov.