BRUSSELS — A delegation from Belgium, comprised of members of the Flemish Parliament (Vlaams Parlement) Karim Van Overmeire (N-VA), Marc Hendrickx (N-VA), Ward Kennes (CD&V), Karl Vanlouwe (N-VA), two teachers from Aalst, Griet Meireman and Catherine van den Nest, and Professor Paul Meerts, Senior Associate at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ (The Hague) and visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Bruges) have been on a four study day visit to the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Republic – Artsakh.
The delegation is headed by the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) President Kaspar Karampetian, coordinated by EAFJD EU Affairs officer Heghine Evinyan, supported by two members of the Armenian National Committee of Belgium, Ashkhen Fixova and Adana Kotanjian. Republic of Armenia National Assembly member Tevan Poghosyan has also joined them.
On Sunday, some members of the delegation first visited the Armenian Genocide memorial complex in Tsitsernakapert, Yerevan, and later paid a visit to the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute. They later visited the classical Hellenistic temple in Garni, and the Geghard medieval monastery.
On Monday, upon the arrival of all members to Yerevan, the delegation visited the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, where they had meetings with the deputy speaker of the parliament, Eduard Sharmazanov, who expressed his for the Belgian parliament’s reaffirmation of its stance on the Armenian Genocide. The delegation also met the chairman of the standing committee on foreign relations, head of the EURONEST parliamentary assembly, Artak Zakaryan, as well as MPs Tevan Poghosyan and Aghvan Vardanyan.
The delegation left for Artsakh Monday in order to be there to continue their visit on March 15.
On March 15, the delegation started its day by visiting the Stepanakert memorial complex and laid wreaths in memory of the victims. Then, the delegation was divided into two parts, the teachers visited schools in Stepanakert where they had meetings with students. They are also expected to visit Artsakh State University, where Professor Meerts will present the subject “international negotiation process”. Later, they will visit the Tumo Center for creative technologies.
In the main hall of the National Assembly, legislative, executive and representatives of local authorities participated in the meeting, during which National Assembly Speaker Ashot Ghoulian highlighted the persistent efforts aimed at preserving the Flemish identity in Belgium, that unlike in the South Caucasus, is expressed through civilized dialogue.
Vanlouwe, referring to the preservation of the national identity of Artsakh and the peoples’ struggle, he said, “I cannot compare the Flemish peaceful struggle for identity with the complex situation created in Nagorno Karabakh. It is hard to imagine that such a meeting would be organized around thirty years ago only because there was a war going on in here.” Vanlouwe, First Vice President of the Belgian Senate, also highlighted the importance of identity and values of democracy, and their importance in politics.
In his turn, Van Overmeire said that this visit is symbolic of the sympathy that they have towards the young democracy of Artsakh. “Artsakh is not only the stronghold of Armenia, but also of Europe,” he said. Kennes said that Artsakh is part of the Christian world, to which he also belongs. And Mark Hendricks, Mechelen city deputy mayor, highlighted the role of the Armenian community of Mechelen and the possible cooperation.
Issues of bilateral relations and possibilities of cooperation in various spheres were also discussed. Within the framework of this visit, Flemish and Nagorno Karabakh schools will cooperate on some educational and exchange programs.
Later today, the delegation will meet with Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan and Artsakh Diocese Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan.