Azad-Hye, 27 July 2006, Dubai: Since 12 July 2006 the Middle East crisis entered a new and very violent stage, especially with the direct confrontation between the Israeli Army and the Lebanese resistance forces (Hezbollah). Analysts now predict that the fighting will continue longer than expected, probably 2-3 months.
Being part of the local population, the Armenians in the Middle East have always suffered from the ongoing political turmoils, even though they have tried to maintain impartial position in the unfolding quarrels.
Karen Grigorian, the Charge d?Affaires of the Embassy of Armenia in Damascus (Syria) provided us with additional information about how the Armenians are dealing with the latest crisis in Lebanon.
According to Grigorian, some 1200 Armenian citizens were in Lebanon when the fighting exploded, majority of them spouses of Lebanese-Armenians and tradsmen, including also a limited number of tourists and visitors.
Soon after the first days of the devastated bombings of Lebanon, the two Armenian Embassies (Beirut and Damascus) and the Armenian General Consulate in Aleppo (second city of Syria with large Armenian pupulation) coordinated their efforts and managed, up to this point, to evacuate 300 citizens in a highly efficient way.
Caravan of buses headed from Beirut to the town of Arida on the Syrian border, from where the Armenian Embassy in Damascus arranged the border crossing formalities and the transfer of the citizens to Aleppo airport, where additional flights were arranged to take the nationals into Yerevan. Several of the flights, origianlly scheduled to Beirut, were diverted to Aleppo in order to serve the increasing number of travelers. Limited number of evacuees preferred to stay in neighboring Syria and Jordan, in anticiaption for peaceful unfolding of events.
Grigorian has himself suprevised the transfer process to Aleppo Airport, by travelling to the Syrian border 4-5 times during the last two weeks.
As far as the Armenian community in Lebanon is concerned, Grigorian explains that the Embassy?s effort has been limited to facilitating the easy transfer to Syria of those who expressed desire to join the other evacuees. Eventually some 350 Armenians (mainly from Lebanon, with few Armenians from other communities who were at that time in Beirut) used the services of the Armenian authorities. In this context, Grigorian wishes to stress that the Embassy is not involved in creating a wave of immigration to Armenia. It is not clear how many of those transferred to Armenia will finally settle down there.
Photo: Karen Grigorian, Charge d'Affaires of Armenia in Damascus, Syria