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Armenian diaspora rallying to the cause

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Photo: Garen Kazandjian

The small, yet vibrant, community of Cyprus has mobilised its members and friends to garner support for efforts to restart peace talks over the fate of Nagorno-Karabagh, the Armenian region known as ‘Artsakh’ bombarded incessantly by Azerbaijan since August.

Due to Ankara’s direct involvement in the conflict and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s flagrant speeches of hate and violence, even insulting French president Macron, the #ArtsakhStrong campaign has found fertile ground in Cyprus, where the feeling of injustice and suffering at Turkey’s hands resonates.

Local community groups and organisations have shown their support by generously contributing money, medical aid and food to be sent to the people of Artsakh while social media and local TV channels are regularly reporting on the situation at the war front and images from protests being held around the world.

On the same day that the House of Representatives condemned Turkey’s antics to open up the deserted ‘fenced off’ area of Varosha, in direct violation of all international calls for its return to the rightful owners, the Greek Cypriot refugees, the deputies passed a unanimous declaration condemning Azerbaijan’s infringement of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabagh.

It said Azerbaijan “broke the process under the Minsk agreement with military operations against unarmed people.

This conflict could escalate to a regional flare-up with tragic consequences for peace and security with catastrophic humanitarian consequences.”

The October 9 resolution, came two days after the U.S., Russia and France agreed to resume the peace talks under the OSCE’s “Minsk Group” initiative.

Cyprus’ parliament condemned “the evident involvement of Turkey in the armed conflict in aid of Azerbaijan, the transport by Turkey of mercenaries from Syria, the bombing of residential areas by targeting civilians, in violation of the relevant Geneva conventions.”

The resolution also called for an immediate ceasefire and return to positions held before the violation of the truce and supported “the peacekeeping process within the framework of the Minsk Group for a peaceful resolution.”

And on Sunday, a miles-long convoy of more than 350 cars with horns blaring and waving flags of Artsakh and Armenia, paraded from Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca, arriving at the southern entry of Nicosia from where they headed into town and past the embassies of the U.S., Russia and France.

At the GSP stadium, where the motor march first stopped, the community’s spiritual leader, Archbishop Khoren Doghramadjian, said, “arms sales, mercenaries, bombing, killing civilians is not peace. A resolution that is tainted with blood is not sustainable.

“Only a peaceful resolution that is based on dialogue and diplomacy, where conflicting parties are supported to find the civilised, non-violent means based on honesty, justice, compassion to make a deal viable.”

Israeli drones

Before concluding the march, cars passed by the Israeli embassy, honking their horns, where a peaceful protest had initially been planned for last Wednesday, condemning the support for Baku and the continued sale by Israel of deadly weaponised drones that are pounding all the towns of Nagorno-Karabagh.

Defenders of the region, though outnumbered by the advanced weaponry provided by Israel, have had success in destroying the Israeli drones, as well as other aerial weapons provided by the Turkish army.

The advantage, for now, is that despite the bombings, the rugged mountainous region prevents the Azerbaijani army from advancing, as Armenian-held positions are better fortified and at higher altitude.

The Financial Mirror was informed that the protest was cancelled after pressure from the Cyprus government that did not want to upset its warm relations with Israel.

It would have been peaceful as was the protest march on September 30 in front of the three Minsk Group members’ embassies.

With the centuries-old presence of Armenians in Cyprus, local politicians, too, have come forward in support of the Armenian struggle.

Cyprus MEP Costas Mavrides (Diko, S&D) was the main speaker at a protest organised by the Armenian communities in Brussels.

“We know who is inciting these wars, not only against Europe, or in the eastern Mediterranean, and now in Nagorno-Karabagh. We know who the criminal is who is conducting a war together with Azerbaijan.

“We know who is thirsty for war, he has a name. It is the modern-day Islamofascist in Ankara. It is Erdogan,” Mavrides told the crowd.

Cyprus MEP, Loucas Fourlas (Disy, EPP), who chairs the Europarliament-Armenia friendship group, said: “Europe cannot keep an equal distance between the victim and the perpetrator. The attack by Azerbaijan against unarmed people is supported and coaxed by Erdogan, who continues his game of destabilising the region.”

Fourlas said he has called on the EU Foreign Affairs High Commissioner to explain why he has appealed to both sides for de-escalation when it is clearly Azerbaijan that started the attacks.

Vartkes Mahdessian, the Armenian MP in the Cyprus parliament said he was grateful to the Cypriot politicians, the Cypriot overseas communities, especially the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK and so many individuals who have come forward and joined the protests of support by Armenians around the world.

“The state continues to support our small community, by maintaining our public schools, where our language and heritage are of primary importance for our survival.

“And whenever we need any support, especially for Armenia and the people of Artsakh, this support has been generous and I hope will continue,” Mahdessian said.

He also reminded the local branch of the worldwide Armenia Fund, that has collected hundreds of millions in aid sent to Armenia since the devastating earthquake in 1988, throughout the ongoing war with Azerbaijan and continues to provide assistance for infrastructure projects, education, healthcare and civil society.

“Armenia is at risk, and we have to defend it at all cost.”