During a meeting with State Department officials earlier today, community representatives stressed, in urgent and frank terms, that “the United States has a unique responsibility to protect the citizens of Kessab especially since a large proportion of them have American families desperately seeking to provide protection and refuge for them.” The delegation submitted a series of requests for prompt U.S. action including:
• Publicly condemn both the vicious attack on an Armenian civilian town by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists and Turkey’s assistance for and cooperation in the attack.
• Demand an immediate withdrawal of the extremists, so that civilians can return to their homes.
• Provide assurances of ongoing protection for the civilian population and call the reinstatement of a demilitarized zone around Kessab and the Turkish border.
• Provide targeted and need-based humanitarian assistance for the displaced civilians from Kessab, who have found refuge in Latakia.
• Demand Turkey secure its border and not allow militants in Kessab to be reinforced with supplies or be able to return to Turkey.
• Investigate Turkey’s assistance to US designated terrorist groups such as Al Nusra and publish its findings.
• Facilitate the return of Armenians back to their homes.
• Assist Americans with missing family members to locate their relatives and bring them to safety.
Earlier this week, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian sent a strongly worded letter calling on President Obama to direct his Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, and his Ambassador to the United Nations to demand that Turkey halt the cross-border attacks on Kessab that have forced the immediate civilian evacuation of the area and led to the looting of properties and the desecration of churches.
Located in the northwestern corner of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kessab had, until very recently, evaded major battles in the Syrian conflict. The local Armenian population had increased in recently years with the city serving as safe-haven for those fleeing from the war-torn cities of Yacubiye, Rakka and Aleppo. On the morning of March 21st, extremist foreign fighters launched a vicious attack on Kessab civilians, forcing them to flee neighboring Latakia and Bassit.