By Armen Zakarian and Emil Danielyan
Armenia will commit troops for its first-ever participation in international peace-keeping operations in the near future, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian announced on Wednesday.
Sarkisian said a platoon from the recently formed Armenian peace-keeping battalion will be included in a Greek army contingent to carry out humanitarian missions abroad under the UN mandate. He gave no details as to when and where the Armenian military plans to dispatch its forces.
Greece, Armenia’s closest NATO partner, provided substantial financial and technical support for the peace-keeping battalion’s creation last year. More than 50 Armenian servicemen have undergone special training in Greece.
The two countries on Wednesday reaffirmed their intention to step up their political, military and economic cooperation. Greece’s visiting deputy foreign minister, Andreas Loverdos, discussed bilateral ties with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. According to Markarian’s press service, the two sides, emphasized “the high level of the centuries-old friendship and political relations” between their nations.
The Greek-trained battalion will also receive part of $4.3 million worth of military assistance allocated by the United States to Armenia late last year. “We will come in behind and help the Greeks finish forming this peace-keeping battalion,” the U.S. military attaché in Yerevan, Eric von Tersch, told RFE/RL in August.
Armenia formally committed itself to participating in UN-led peace-keeping operations July 2001. Under a communiqué signed in New York by Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian and UN Deputy Secretary General Michael Sheehan, up to 116 Armenian soldiers and officers were due to be ready to join the UN multinational peace-keeping force by the beginning of this year.