By Emil Danielyan
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov arrived in Yerevan on Thursday for a two-day official visit which he said will deepen the already close military ties between Russia and Armenia.
“I am sure that my negotiations with my counterpart Serzh Sarkisian will allow us to raise military cooperation between Armenia on a higher qualitative level,” Ivanov told journalists.
The two men will sign on Friday several new agreements which he said will boost defense capabilities of the two states. One of the documents regulates the status of Russian military consultants in the Armenian armed forces. Ivanov said it will place their activities into a “clear legislative framework.”
The minister is scheduled to visit Russian military installations that have remained on Armenian territory since the Soviet collapse. The presence of Russian troops is a major element in Yerevan’s national security doctrine. The two armies regularly hold joint maneuvers on the bilateral basis and within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty.
Ivanov’s arrival comes ahead of Friday’s visit to Armenia by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Officials in Yerevan say it will cement their “strategic partnership” with Moscow. It is expected that defense issues will be high on the agenda of Putin’s talks with President Robert Kocharian. Kocharian told the ITAR-Tass news agency earlier this week that Russia’s military presence in the south Caucasus plays a “serious stabilizing role."
In addition to his talks with government officials, Putin is also expected to visit a memorial to the victims of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in Turkey and to meet with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II.