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Syria, Armenia decry Turkish support for anti-Damascus militants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This AFP photo shows Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem (R) alongside Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian at a press conference in Damascus on May 27, 2015.

Foreign ministers of Syria and Armenia have censured Turkey’s joint program with the United States to train and equip anti-Damascus militants.

During a joint press conference with his visiting Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian on Wednesday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Damascus regards the move to provide assistance and air support for militants fighting the Syrian government as an aggression and so has the right to retaliate against it.

He noted that Ankara is well aware that “the use of Syrian airspace by non-Syrian planes is by definition an aggression, therefore the Syrian Arab Republic has the right to use all the available resources to repel this aggression.”

Moallem made the remarks a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced the official beginning of the joint program to train and arm “small groups of militants” operating against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, adding that Ankara and Washington will provide “air protection” to those militants preparing to enter Syria.

Çavuşoğlu claimed that the main aim of the program would be to prepare the militants for the fight against Takfiri ISIL terrorists, who control some parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. However, many suspect the move is in fact strengthening the terrorists who are operating against the Syrian government.

According to reports, over 15,000 militants will be trained by about 120 US soldiers in a course of three years in Turkey. The Turkish foreign minister said earlier in February that Saudi Arabia and Qatar had also expressed readiness to host the train-and-equip program.

Moallem also referred to the 1915 killing of Armenian during the Ottoman Empire, saying, “If the international community had imposed the necessary punishment to the butchers who committed the massacres against Armenians in the early 20th century, then their descendants today in Turkey wouldn’t have dared to commit massacres via their pawns in Syria.”

In his turn, Nalbandian also expressed grave concern over the humanitarian crisis wreaking havoc in the country, reiterating that “we are convinced that the crisis can only be overcome and peace can only be achieved by ending violence and initiating constructive dialogue between all sides involved in a manner that takes into consideration the interests of all Syrians.”

The Armenian foreign minister also said that the Syrian desert was the final stop for hundreds of thousands of Armenians who survived a march of death 100 years ago, noting that back then Syrians helped them make a second home there.  

Nalbandian added Yerevan has always been trying to draw international attention to the situation in the Middle East, and particularly in war-stricken Syria to prevent nay support for the terrorists there.


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