In addition to sending the first humanitarian shipment of emergency aid to Lebanon, an Armenian government delegation also arrived in Beirut to become acquainted with the situation there following last week’s massive explosion that has rocked the country and forced the resignation of its government on Monday.
Heading the delegation is Armenia’s High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan, who is accompanied by chief of staff, Sara Anjargholian; Varag Siserian, the chief of staff of Deputy prime minister Tigran Avinyan; head of the Armenia-Lebanon Parliamentary Friendship group Hrachyan Hakobyan and director of the Hayastan All Armenian Fund Haykak Arshamyan.
Upon arriving in Lebanon on board the humanitarian flight, the delegation visited Antelias and attended a special mass officiated by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral.
Following the church services, Aram I met with the Armenian government delegation, which was briefed by the pontiff about the scope of the destruction and the damage to Armenian institutions and individual residences and businesses.
Community officials have reported that 13 Armenians died from last week’s blast that has leveled a swath of Beirut and has left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The Catholicos emphasized the importance of prioritizing the needs of the Armenian community and said that a commission involving all community institutions is working on this matter.
Sinanyan explained to the pontiff that he and the delegation were on the ground to evaluate and assess the situation and to meet with members of the Armenian community to gain first-hand information about its needs.
In his remarks, the Catholicos spoke about the need to strengthen the Diaspora as it has played a vital role in the strengthening of Armenia.
According to Sinanyan’s office, the sides reiterated that the homeland’s doors would always be open for Diaspora Armenians.
Sinanyan reiterated this sentiment during an interview on Monday with Radio Liberty in Beirut, highlighting the role Lebanon has played in the post-Genocide Armenian reality
“We are grateful to Lebanon for the humane treatment of the Armenian people after the Genocide. We are ready to help our compatriots no matter what decision they make,” Sinanyan said.
“We will help those who want to remain and will tell those who wish to come to Armenia that the homeland is waiting for all Armenians with open doors,” added Sinanyan, explaining that about 300 Lebanese Armenians had already returned to Armenia for permanent residence before the blast with 37 returning on the humanitarian flight.
The discussion of assisting the Lebanese-Armenian community continued during a meeting with Armenian Catholic Catholicos-Patriarch His Beatitude Krikor Bedros XX.
After hearing Krikor Bedros XX’s briefing, Sinanyan explained that Armenia is providing assistance to the Government of Lebanon, the brotherly people of Lebanon, as well as the Lebanese-Armenian community.
“The purpose of the visit is to have a deeper understanding on how we can assist our Lebanese-Armenian compatriots,” Sinanyan said.
In his remarks, the pontiff stressed that Armenians around the world “have two hearts – Armenia and the Diaspora,” and was happy to note that finally Armenians have a free and independent homeland.
He also emphasized the importance of the assistance that was received from the Government of Artsakh. “Our brothers are with us, and this was a very beautiful gesture,” he said.
Sinanyan mentioned that two more planeloads with humanitarian aid will be delivered to Lebanon from Armenia.
On Monday, Sinanyan met with representatives of media outlets in Lebanon, among them the Aztag, Zartonk, and Ararat newspapers, Radio Sevan, Voice of Van radio stations, and representatives from AGBU’s media department.
Armenia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Vahagn Atabekyan hosted the gathering at the Embassy where Sinanyan and the journalists discussed a wide range of issues, including strengthening Armenia-Diaspora relations, enhancing inter-community ties, activating communication networks. The state of the press in the aftermath of last week’s explosion, as well as prioritizing targeted areas of support for the Lebanese-Armenian community were also discussed.