FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa — The Honourable Stephane Dion, Member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent – Cartierville and former Leader of the Official Opposition visited the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from September 21 to 27, 2013. Mr. Dion’s visit allowed him to view first-hand the progress that Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have made since becoming independent and 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. Mr. 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.
Mr. Dion’s trip included meetings with Armenian and NKR parliamentarians, meetings with officials of both countries’ 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 NKR President Bako Sahakian, and Parlaimentary speaker Ashot Ghulian.
Mr. 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, Mr. 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, Mr. Dion has said he will share his observations with his fellow Parliamentarians and provide them with unique insights as someone intimately familiar with the right of 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 Mr. 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 Nagorno-Karabakh. Dr. Basmajian said “The Armenian-Canadian community joins with all Canadians in applauding the Canadian government’s contributions to Syria’s neighbouring 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.”
For further information:
Mr. R. Robert Kouyoumdjian
Tel.: (514) 265-4602
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues.
Le CNAC est l’organisation canado-arménienne des droits humains la plus large et influentielle. Collaborant avec une série de bureaux, chapitres et souteneurs à travers le Canada et des organisations affiliées à travers le monde, le CNAC s’occupe activement des inquiétudes de la communauté canadienne-arménienne.