YEREVAN—Stephane Dion, Member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent–Cartierville and former Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, is on visit to the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from September 21 to 27, 2013. Dion’s visit has allowed him to view first-hand the progress that Armenia and Artsakh have made since becoming independent, as well as to share the knowledge gained from his experience as Canadian Minister of the Environment and Minister of Inter-Governmental Affairs with the governments of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Dion was accompanied on his trip by Dr. Girair Basmajian, chair of the Armenian National Committee of Canada, which was instrumental in organizing this fact-finding mission.
Dion’s trip included meetings with Armenian legislators, meetings with officials of both Armenia’s and Artsakh’s executive branches of government, and visits with Syrian-Armenian refugees that have been recently displaced from their homes due to the internal strife in Syria.
According to official estimates, there are approximately 10,000 Syrian-Armenian refugees living in both the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
During a one-day visit to Stepanakert, the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Mr. Dion met with Artsakh President Bako Sahakian and Speaker of Parliament Ashot Ghulian.
Dion’s visit coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Armenia and gave him a chance to witness how economic and social conditions have evolved since Armenia regained its independence after 70 years of Soviet rule. Similarly, Dion was able to view how Nagorno-Karabakh has progressed since its people were able to free themselves from Azerbaijani oppression. On his return to Canada, Dion has said he will share his observations with his fellow members of parliament and will provide them with unique insights as someone intimately familiar with the right to self-determination in international law.
“Mr. Dion’s visit to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh was an important step in further strengthening the ties between Canada and these new democracies. Mr. Dion is following in the footsteps of the Canadian parliamentary delegation that observed Nagorno-Karabakh’s free and fair elections in 2012 and a separate Canadian parliamentary delegation that attended the inauguration of Armenia’s president earlier this year.” said Dr. Basmajian.
“Mr. Dion saw for himself how Nagorno-Karabakh has developed over the last 20 years and the problems caused by Azerbaijan’s aggression and illegal blockade of Armenia. No doubt Mr. Dion’s trip would have been more comfortable if Azerbaijan’s threats to shoot down civilian airliners had not kept Stepanakert’s airport from opening. We can only hope that the next time a Canadian delegation visits Nagorno-Karabakh, the airport will be accepting travellers.”
Dr. Basmajian also hoped that Dion’s visit would convince Canada and the international community to provide assistance to the over 10,000 Syrian-Armenians who have been displaced by the current situation in Syria and now reside in Armenia and Karabakh. Dr.
Basmajian said, “The Armenian-Canadian community joins with all Canadians in applauding the Canadian government’s contributions to Syria’s neighboring countries to assist with caring for the influx of refugees escaping from Syria, but it is important to also assist the government of Armenia in dealing with the substantial costs it has undertaken to care for the Syrian-Armenians who have recently arrived in Armenia. We are confident that once our representatives hear from Mr. Dion about the need for international assistance they will do whatever they can to help.”