Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - A call to return to Syria and rebuild homes devastated by the conflict was addressed by President Bashar Assad to Syrian Armenians who fled the Country during the years of conflict, finding refuge in Lebanon, Armenia or others Middle Eastern and Western countries. The explicit request for repatriation addressed to Armenian refugees was expressed by the Syrian leader on the occasion of his recent meeting with Aram I, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos of the Grand House of Cilicia, received in Damascus by President Assad on Tuesday 14 May.
The Syrian official media also reported the praises addressed in that circumstance by Assad to the "patriotic spirit" of the Syrian Armenians, whom he defined as "exemplary citizens": the Syrian President glorified their contribution to the defense of the national unity in the face of the attempt to dismember the Country put in place by what Assad has defined "terrorist barbarism". Assad also compared the brutality he attributed to this "terrorist barbarism" with the ferocity of the massacres committed more than a century ago by the Ottomans against the Armenian people. While the Catholicos Aram recalled that Syria was a safe haven for the Armenians who in those tragic circumstances were fleeing from the systematic massacres perpetrated against them in the territories of present-day Turkey. The Catholicos also thanked Assad for his contribution to the restoration of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs in Aleppo, devastated during the conflict.
Of the Syrian Armenians who fled the country during the conflict, at least 22,000 have been welcomed in Armenia. In June 2018 (see Fides 26/6/2018) the European Union had allocated a contribution of 3 million euros aimed at supporting projects for the integration of Armenian refugees who fled from Syria and found refuge in the former Soviet republic.
In 2015, while the Syrian conflict exacerbated the clash between Damascus and Erdogan's Turkey, Syria recognized the Armenian Genocide (a definition challenged by the government in Ankara) perpetrated in Anatolia a hundred years earlier. On 4 March 2015, the Syrian People's Assembly dedicated a commemorative session to the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The initiative, promoted in particular by the Syrian Christian parliamentarian Maria Saadeh, saw the involvement of members of parliamentary committees for foreign relations. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 18/5/2019)