YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Turkish authorities have refused to give permission to a group of Armenian tourists to climb Mount Ararat. The group consisting of 23 Armenia’s–two Russia’s–one American and one Canadian–arrived in the Turkish town of Dogubeyazit near Ararat Wednesday. The group wanted to make what they described as a friendship climb of Ararat.
The chief editor of the Armenian newspaper in Turkey Marmara Rober Haddejian told RFE/RL the only reason the local authorities refused to give permission was that the group had no clear statement on the purpose of their planned trip. Haddejian said that foreigners should seek permission before climbing Mount Ararat.
However–the group had a very warm reception in Kars region where they arrived first from Armenia.
"They were even allowed to have a walk and take pictures in the ruins of the ancient Ani town which is not generally allowed to the foreigners," Rober Haddejian said.
The trip to Ararat was dedicated to the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in Armenia. The members of the group also intended to search for the remains of Noah’s Ark."This could be the reason why the Turkish authorities were so reluctant to let the group to climb the mountain," said Haddejian.
Speaking by phone to RFE/RL from Kars–the head of the presidential commission on human rights–Paruir Hairikian–who accompanied the group–said that the trip was purely touristic with no political purpose. However–he did not specify whether they have official permission to climb Mount Ararat.
Hairikian said that they had permission to make a trip–but at the very last moment National Security officials found that the group didn’t have proper documentation.
"We still believe this was a misunderstanding," Hairikian said–adding that the group still hopes to get permission to climb Ararat. The group returned to Kars Thursday.