YEREVAN — More Armenians will likely flee Syria in the coming weeks and Armenia must be prepared for accommodating many of them, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said over the weekend.
As the United States and its allies lay plans for what many believe will be a sustained missile strike inside Syria, the sizable ethnic Armenian community in that country is bracing for the worst.
“We can see that a big out-migration from Aleppo will take place. Obviously we have to be prepared for a turn of events that will force us to be able to receive Syrian Armenians,” the Prime Minister said at a meeting with university students in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sarkisian made the comment in response to a question about repercussions of widely anticipated of U.S. military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
According to immigration authorities in Yerevan, around 10,000 Syrian Armenians have already taken refuge in their ancestral homeland since the start of the civil war in Syria more than two years ago. Thousands of others have fled to neighboring Lebanon.
There were an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians in Syria before the outbreak of the bloody conflict. Most of them lived in Aleppo, the country’s largest city that has become one of the epicenters of fierce fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels.
Sarkisian told students in Stepanakert that he has discussed the matter with Karabakh Armenian leaders. He did not elaborate.
The Karabakh government has repeatedly expressed readiness to take in Syrian Armenians. Several dozen Syrian Armenian families have already settled in Karabakh and other Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.
While facilitating Syrian Armenian immigration with a range of mostly administrative measures, the Armenian government has so far refrained from urging the embattled community to leave Syria. Nor has it announced any contingency plans for the evacuation of Armenians remaining there.
Nikolay Grigorian, the deputy director of the Armenian Rescue Service, said on August 28 that his agency will try to evacuate them in case of a “political decision” by the government.
Several Armenians in Aleppo interviewed RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) by phone last week said that fleeing the city is now extremely difficult and dangerous because all the roads are blocked by the warring sides. Regular flights between Syria and Armenia were halted in January as fighting in and around Aleppo intensified.