By Hrach Melkumian
A senior Armenian military official said on Thursday that Turkish soldiers might take part in multi-national military exercises to be held in Armenia in 2003 within the framework of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
“That can not be ruled out,” the chief of staff of the Armenian armed forces, Lieutenant-General Mikael Harutiunian, told RFE/RL. “Throughout 2002 we will be holding negotiations to clarify who will participate in the exercises.”
The arrival of a Turkish army unit would be a landmark event in the extremely tense relations between the two neighboring nations with no diplomatic relations. Armenia sees a serious threat to its security emanating from its traditional foe and a NATO member. The perceived Turkish threat is the main reason for Armenia’s close military alliance with Russia.
Harutiunian said “several dozen” European countries may send their troops to what will be the first-ever NATO-led war games on Armenian territory. He said the exercises will test their coordination of joint peacekeeping operations.
NATO has already held this year similar maneuvers in neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan, which have been more active than Armenia in developing ties with the Alliance.