Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, left, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

By Nane Sahakian

DAMASCUS (Azatutyun) — Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Thursday, February 23, as Armenia delivered a third batch of humanitarian aid to Syrian victims of this month’s devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry reported that Mirzoyan discussed with Assad Syrian-Armenian relations, “regional and international security” as well as bilateral “cooperation on international platforms.” He held a separate meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad.

According to the official Syrian news agency SANA, Assad praised his country’s “historical” ties with Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora. He also thanked the Armenian government for sending a search-and-rescue team and relief to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo hit hard by the February 6 earthquake.

Mirzoyan flew to Damascus on board a transport plane that carried 32 tons of food and medicine for Aleppo residents affected by the disaster. He toured the war-ravaged city and met with the Armenian rescuers still working there later in the day.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed at least 1,400 people in Syria’s government-controlled areas. The victims included several Syrian Armenians from Aleppo.

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“The schools here remain closed and people still live in fear,” Zarmig Boghigian, the editor of the Aleppo-based Armenian-language newspaper Kantsasar, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

An estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians, most of them descendants of survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey, lived in Syria before the outbreak of its bloody civil war in 2011. At least half of them reportedly fled the country during the fighting. Thousands took refuge in Armenia.

Armenia was one of the few countries that did not cut ties with Assad’s regime and maintained functioning diplomatic missions in Damascus and Aleppo throughout the civil war. In 2019, it deployed, with Russia’s support, more than 80 demining specialists, army medics and other noncombat military personnel to Syria, prompting criticism from the United States.

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