OTTAWA–His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien–Monday–at the leader’s Ottawa office.
Aram I was accompanied by his entourage–comprised of Eastern US and Canada Prelate Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian–Canada Prelacy Vicar General Bishop Khajag Hagopian–Lebanese Ambassador Asem Jaber–Parliamentarian Sarkis Asatourian–Pontifical visit committee members Vicken Hovsepian–Hagop Ter Khachaturian and Harry Markarian.
The meeting between the two dignitaries was conducted in two session. During the first session all members of the delegation were present–while only Archbishop Ashjian–Bishop Hagopian–Jaber and Asatourian joined the Catholicos and Chretien for the second session.
During the 45-minute meeting the Catholicos initiated discussion on several key issues–including the Karabakh conflict and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The participants of the meeting also discussed the issue of land mines. Canada has long been pursuing the ratification of an international treaty to ban land mines–and destroy existing ones. His Holiness Aram I expressed his absolute support for Canada’s leading role in this cause–emphasizing the importance of banning such military equipment. Chretien–in turn–thanked the Catholicos for his understanding and explained that Canada would continue its crusade for world peace.
Aram I praised the Canadian government and the people for their treatment of the Armenian residents of Canada. He explained that Armenia’s came to Canada as immigran’s and Canada accepted them with open arms–and they have become contributing citizens of the country. Chretien also expressed his praise for the Armenian community–emphasizing the importance of the Armenian community’s maintenance of its national values and ideals–in addition to being exemplary citizens of Canada.
As to issues facing Lebanon–Aram I explained to the prime minister that the country faces great challenges in its efforts to rebuild after a devastating civil war. However–Aram I explained–Southern Lebanon continues to remain under Israeli occupation and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 must be implemented–because according to the religious leader–Lebanon and Syria cannot give up their rights.
Chretien expressed his agreement with Aram I on respecting the rights of all nations in the region–if lasting peace is to be established. The leader also announced his support for the positive direction Lebanese domestic and foreign policy has taken in recent years.
Aid to Armenia was also discussed between the two leaders. Aram I thanked Canada’s government for its continuous help–and encouraged the prime minister to initiate assistance toward Armenia’s domestic economic and social revival.
The Karabakh issues was explained by Aram I as being an issue of a peoples’ right to self-determination–and justice. Chretien said that he considered the issue to be a multi-faceted conflict–which can–according to him–only be solved with compromise from all sides. Chretien did emphasize the role of the regional and international mediators in the process.
In conclusion–Aram I discussed the issues relating to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide–explaining that this horrific episode in history is etched in the Armenian nation’s collective psyche and memory. Saying that the Genocide is not an event that can be easily denied or dismissed–he urged the Canadian government–as a protector of human rights–to take steps toward recognizing the Genocide officially.
Chretien then assured the Catholicos that he personally had a very deep understanding to the plight of the Armenian people–although at the same time he noted that the consideration of the question in a political arena may generate sensitivities.