By Hrach Melkumian
Senior Armenian and Belarusian officials discussed on Monday the implementation of bilateral defense agreements that envisage, among other things, mutual supplies of weapons and other military equipment.
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and his visiting Belarusian counterpart, General Leonid Maltsev, said the two former Soviet republics are keen to forge close military ties within the framework of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty (CST), of which they are both signatories.
“We have a solid legal framework for military cooperation with Armenia,” Maltsev told reporters on his arrival in Yerevan. “The main purpose of my visit is to turn that legal framework into practical things.”
The talks were preceded by the ratification by the Armenian and Belarusian parliaments of a bilateral defense agreement signed during President Robert Kocharian’s visit to Minsk last June. The agreement paves the way for mutual arms supplies, exempting them from any tax and customs duties.
Sarkisian said Armenia takes a “great interest” in the production of Belarus’s Soviet-era military-industrial complex, pointing in particular to telescopic sights and other optical devices. He said the Armenian military is also interested in the Belarusian-made equipment used for renovating military tanks, armored personnel carriers and other military hardware.
Armenia and Belarus both have close military ties with Russia within the bilateral and CST framework. Maltsev admitted that this is one of the reasons why the they have been cooperating “very well.” Yerevan has on several occasions sided with Minsk in the international arena, opposing resolutions condemning the autocratic President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s poor human rights record.
Meeting with Maltsev, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian reaffirmed his country’s intention to deepen relations with Belarus. The Belarusian defense chief, who also visited a military unit near Yerevan, will be received by President Robert Kocharian on Tuesday.