By Shakeh Avoyan
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said on Thursday Armenia would like to purchase weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria, but was told by his visiting Bulgarian counterpart to wait until a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Nikolay Svinarov reiterated on the second day of his official trip to Yerevan that his country is ready to supply some of its excess arsenal to the Armenian military only after a peaceful settlement in the region.
“We hope that our cooperation in defense and other areas will become more extensive after a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Svinarov told a joint news conference. “Once the political and international situation normalizes, Bulgaria will be able to provide various types of weapons and ammunition to Armenia.”
Sarkisian, however, insisted that Yerevan needs to strengthen its armed forces now so that it can fend off a possible military assault by Azerbaijan. “We can really acquire what we need from Bulgaria at the moment without awaiting a settlement of the Karabakh problem, because our army will not quite need that after it,” he said.
Asked by a Bulgarian journalist whether the Armenian government can pay for such arms deliveries, Sarkisian replied, “We already acquire weapons, military hardware and ammunition from many countries of the world, and those contracts are mutually beneficial.”
Sarkisian did not name those countries or specify what types of weaponry the Armenian army needs. He instead pointed to a 1996 Armenian-Bulgarian agreement on cooperation of their military-industrial complexes, saying that “Bulgarian firms would be very happy to sell us their production.”
Russia is believed to be Armenia’s main source of armaments in view of the close military alliance between the two countries. Yerevan has never publicized its other sources of arms supplies.
The two defense ministers met reporters after signing a plan of joint activities for next year. Svinarov said on Wednesday that it will largely involve training of military personnel and exchange of information.
Still, “expansion of military-technical cooperation” between the two countries was on the agenda of his talks with President Robert Kocharian, according to the Armenian leader’s press service. It cited the two men as agreeing that Bulgarian-Armenian relations “are seeing serious development and have become more dynamic.”
Kocharian paid last month an official visit to Sofia which focused on ways of deepening bilateral commercial ties.
(Photolur photo: Svinarov, right, meeting Kocharian.)