By Emil Danielyan
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will visit Armenia next week as part of a regional tour that will be dominated by the ongoing US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, diplomatic sources told RFE/RL on Saturday.
Rumsfeld is due in Yerevan next Saturday on a trip that will also take him to neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Sources said issues related to Armenia’s cooperation with the anti-terror effort will top the agenda of his talks with President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian officials. They said Rumsfeld will discuss, in particular, “ramifications” of the developments since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
All three Caucasian states have granted the US military use of their air space for the Afghanistan campaign, providing American warplanes based in Europe and eastern Turkey with a corridor to Central Asia. Azerbaijan’s support for the military action has led the US Congress to allow President George Bush to suspend economic sanctions it imposed on Baku nearly ten years ago. In a bid to ease Armenian concerns over the move, Congress also approved $4.3 million in military assistance to Yerevan.
US officials have said the impending suspension of the aid ban on Azerbaijan paves the way for closer military ties between the US and Armenia. Pentagon and Armenian officials are due to hold meetings in the coming months to decide how the American assistance will be used.