US Criticizes Armenia for Deploying Non-Combat Humanitarian Mission to Syria

The Department of State of the United States has criticized Armenia for deploying a non-combat humanitarian mission to Syria. In a statement released by the US Embassy in Armenia on February 13.

“We do not support any engagement with Syrian military forces, whether that engagement is to provide assistance to civilians or is military in nature,” said the document, adding, “nor do we support any cooperation between Armenia and Russia for this mission." 

Armenia sent a non-combat humanitarian mission consisting of 83 doctors, sappers and other servicemen to Syria a week ago, on February 8. According to Armenian officials, the humanitarian mission will be deployed in Allepo, a city with a large ethnic Armenian community.

They allso say the humanitarian mission was requested by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s administration.

However, the Armenia plans to support the Russian mission in Syria were not unexpected. Prime Minister Pashinyan announced his decision about deploying Armenian humanitarian mission to Syria in September 2018 after a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In October, Pashinyan’s administration discussed this topic with President Trump’s National Security adviser John Bolton during his regional visit to South Caucasus. However Bolton made a remark saying, that “It would be a mistake for anybody else to get involved militarily in the Syrian conflict at the moment.”

On Tuesday February 12, Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan in a press-conference reconfirmed the pure humanitarian nature of the mission but didn’t exclude the possibility of deploying combat mission in Syria in the future.

However, during the discussions in the Parliament PM Pashinyan rejected this possibility, saying, that “We have no such plans”.

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Nakhdalyan on Wednesday commenting the American statements said that the decision of deploying humanitarian mission to Syria is arranged by the desire to support the Armenian community in Aleppo. “Throughout the Syrian conflict the plight of civilians, minorities, including the sizable Syrian-Armenian community has consistently been a priority concern for the Armenian people worldwide. The Armenian public opinion strongly reflects deep compassion and concern for the sufferings of civilians and the devastation of the country. We speak about a country which has had an indispensable contribution for the survival of the Armenian nation in the wake of the Armenian Genocide.”-she said.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman also assured that the mission is purely relief mission guided by the International Humanitarian Law and coordinates its work with the relief agencies and international partners present on the ground.

Former deputy foreign minister, the head of the foreign affairs commission of the Parliament Ruben Rubinyan, who considers to be one of the key figures of the ruling Civil Contract” Party lead by Pashinyan, on Thursday was optimistic, commenting the statement issued by the Department of State however saying that the American partners understand the logic and the motivations of the Armenian side. “Sending a team of specialists to Syria is very important for us because it is first of all aimed at ensuring the physical security of our compatriots living there and second of all the security of peoples living in Syria. So this was not a geopolitical or political or military move. This is a purely humanitarian move,” Rubinian said.

Karen Tovmasyan

16 February 2019 08:27