BRUSSELS—A six member parliamentary delegation from the Kingdom of Belgium is on a one-week study visit to the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh from September 6-13. The delegation is accompanied by European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) President Kaspar Karampetian, EAFJD EU Affairs Officer Heghine Evinyan, and Armenian National Committee of Belgium member, Robert Invijajev.
The delegation, consisting of parliamentarians from different factions of the Belgian political spectrum, visited the Republic of Armenia National Assembly and held various meetings. They first met the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, Chairman of the Armenian delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, Artak Zakaryan. Topics discussed included the foreign policy of the Republic of Armenia and its change of course since 2013 when Armenia decided to join the Eurasian Economic Union. Zakaryan emphasized the determination of Armenia to continue its close cooperation with the European Union. He assured that in terms of democracy and state-building, Europe as well as the values it stands for are examples for Armenia to follow. The discussion also focused on the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Later, the French-speaking members of the Belgian Parliamentary delegation met the members of the Armenian Delegation at the Francophonie Parliamentary Assembly. Margarit Yesayan, Head of the Armenian Delegation, welcomed the guests. In the meantime, Dutch-speaking Karim Van Overmeire was welcomed by the rector and vice rector of the Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences, as well as students majoring in political science, international relations and Dutch philology. A question and answer session which was partly in Dutch focused on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Belgium and the Armenian community in Belgium and in particular in Flanders. At the end of the meeting, Van Overmeire visited the center of Dutch studies.
The members of the delegation also met and had a lively exchange of views with the representatives of all Armenian political parties represented in the National Assembly. Among other critical issues, Armenia’s the constitutional reform was discussed.
The last meeting scheduled in the Armenian Parliament was with the President of the National Assembly Galust Sahakyan, who welcomed the Belgian delegation and highlighted the interaction and dialogue between the legislative bodies of the two countries. He also welcomed the establishment of the Friendship Group with Armenia by the Belgian deputies and representatives from the Belgian Parliament to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He stressed the fact that in the Armenian parliament, the Armenia-Belgium Friendship Group has been functioning for a long time, and expressed confidence that the Friendship Groups’ activity will best serve to the deepening of Armenian-Belgian ties. Sahakyan, touching upon the fact that the delegation’s visit takes place within the framework of the 100th year of the Armenian Genocide, expressed his gratitude for the adoption of the resolution on the Armenian Genocide in July of this year by the Chamber of Deputies of the Kingdom of Belgium.
The parliamentarians also had a meeting with civil society organizations. They met with representatives of the International Center for Human Development (ICHD), including its executive director Armen Galstyan. Questions raised concerned, among other things, the dynamics of the relations between the Armenian government and civil society, the mechanisms of putting issues on the political agenda, as well as the current most pressing issues of Armenian society. At the end of the day, the Belgian deputies met Dr. Stepan Grigoryan, director of the Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation.
On the second day of their visit, the delegation had a meeting with Giro Manoyan, member of the ARF – Dashnaktsutyun Bureau, director of the international secretariat. The pros and cons of Armenia’s constitutional reform package were discussed. The Belgian deputies also met former member of Armenian parliament and current representative of the non-governmental organization “Ognir Yeghport,” Lilit Galstyan. “Ognir Yeghport” focuses on the issues of Syrian-Armenian refugees in Armenia. Possibilities of alleviating the difficult situation of the refugees and supporting them were discussed.
Later on, the delegation visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial complex – Tsitsernakaberd – and paid homage to the victims of the Armenia Genocide. The deputies gained further insight into the historical details of the tragedy at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.
The next stop was the Mother See of Holy Etchmiatdzin, center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The delegates had an exchange of views with Archbishop Nathan, who is in charge of external relations for the Armenia Apostolic Church. Among other things, they touched upon the relations of the Armenian Church with other Oriental Christian churches, the current situation of Christians in the Middle East, and the challenges of inter-religious dialogue.
Afterwards, the delegation had a chance to get acquainted with the treasures of the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts–Matenadaran–in Yerevan.
At the end of the day, the parliamentarians had a meeting with the President of the Republic of Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian. Sarkisian expressed his gratitude to the Belgian Deputies, for their and their chamber’s role in adopting the resolution on the Armenian Genocide. Other issues discussed included the relations between Armenia and Belgium, parliamentary cooperation, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s peaceful solution. The constitutional amendments were also discussed between the two parties.
The delegation from Belgium continued their visit on September 10 by traveling to the Artsakh Republic, where they met President Bako Sahakyan. Issues related to Artsakh-Belgium relations were discussed during the meeting.
Special attention was paid to parliamentary ties as well as cultural and humanitarian spheres of cooperation. Sahakyan noted that Artsakh was interested in deepening cooperation with Belgium and its administrative units, stressing that there were favorable conditions for developing mutually beneficial bilateral relations.
National Assembly Vice-Chairman Vahram Balayan, head of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy Kaspar Karapetyan and other officials partook in the meeting.