Armenian MFA focused on Kesab issue
13:58, 24 March, 2014
YEREVAN, MARCH 24, ARMENPRESS: The issue of the Armenians, evacuated from the Syria’s Armenian-populated Kesab, is in the center of attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia. The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tigran Balayan stated about it. Armenpress reports that Armenia tries to find ways to assist the Armenians, who evacuated from Kesab and found shelter in Latakia.
Earlier it was reported that the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I contacted the presidential palace of Syria appealing to send army to Kesab to provide for the security of the local population. In his turn the Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon visited Catholicos Aram I in Antelias on March 22, conveying to him Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s assurances that peace will be restored in Kesab. The Catholicos welcomed the Syrian President’s initiative and noted for his part that Kesab has a symbolic significance for the Armenian people. He later sent a delegation of clergyman to Latakia. The Catholicos reminded that the same genocide-committed Turkey uses the chance to strike on the Armenian people.
According to the Armenian Weekly, the armed incursion began on Friday, March 21, 2014 with rebels associated with Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossing the Turkish border and attacking the Armenian civilian population of Kesab. The attackers immediately seized two guard posts overlooking Kesab, including a strategic hill known as Observatory 45 and later took over the border crossing point with Turkey. Snipers targeted the civilian population and launched mortar attacks on the town and the surrounding villages. According to eyewitness accounts, the attackers crossed the Turkish border with Syria openly passing through Turkish military barracks. According to Turkish media reports, the attackers carried their injured back to Turkey for treatment in the town of Yayladagi.
Some 670 Armenian families, the majority of the population of Kesab, were evacuated by the local Armenian community leadership to safer areas in neighboring Basit and Latakia. Ten to fifteen families with relations too elderly to move were either unable to leave or chose to stay in their homes. On Saturday, March 22, Syrian troops launched a counteroffensive in an attempt to regain the border crossing point, eye-witnesses and state media reported. However, on Sunday, March 23, the extremist groups once again entered the town of Kesab, took the remaining Armenian families hostage, desecrated the town’s three Armenian churches, pillaging local residences and occupying the town and surrounding villages. Located in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kesab had, until very recently evaded major battles in the Syrian conflict. The local Armenian population had increased in recently years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo.