Ashton, accompanied by Iranian officials and Armenian community leaders, visited the 350-year-old Surp Amenaprkitch Monestary, where the church’s Komitas Choir performed excerpts of Divine Liturgy.
Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Isfahan, Bishop Papken Charian, expressed gratitude to the European Union for recognizing the Armenian Genocide while at the same time lamenting the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the denial of the genocide.
The Primate introduced High Representative Ashton to the vibrant Armenian community in Iran. He presented Iran as a country of coexistence and tolerance, where Armenians have lived for 400 years alongside their Muslim brothers and sisters with respect and love.
He praised the support of Iranian authorities toward the maintenance of Armenian churches and cultural values, and reminded that a few years ago neighboring Azerbaijan demolished ancient Armenian cross-stones in Old Julfa, in an act of cultural genocide.
The Primate voiced hope that the European Parliament will condemn the vandalism to prevent the reoccurrence of such acts of genocide elsewhere in the future. Catherine Ashton assured she would pursue the protection of human rights and the concerns presented by the Primate.
The officials later visited the Monastery’s adjacent museum, where High Representative Ashton was introduced to some of the church’s oldest artifacts, including illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and the very first printing press to operate in Iran and the wider Middle East.
Ashton was also presented with a history of the Armenian Genocide at the museum, and its bearings on the Armenian community in Iran and worldwide.
Ashton left a note in the museum’s guestbook before concluding her visit.