By Armen Zakarian in Brussels
Armenia will soon appoint a permanent representative to NATO in order to step up its cooperation with the U.S.-dominated alliance, President Robert Kocharian announced during a working visit to Brussels on Wednesday.
The announcement came after his talks with NATO’s outgoing Secretary General George Robertson. Kocharian said the full-time special envoy will facilitate and intensify security consultations between the Armenian government and representatives of the rapidly expanding alliance.
Armenia was until now represented at NATO’s headquarters by its ambassador in Brussels, Vigen Chitechian, who is also responsible for its relations with the European Union’s main executive body, also based in the Belgian capital. Another Brussels-based Armenian diplomat is in charge of day-to-day bilateral affairs and has an office inside NATO’s political office. Also, an Armenian military officer is assigned to the NATO military headquarters outside Brussels and coordinates Armenia’s participation in the alliance’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program for former Communist states.
Neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia are better represented at both structures, reflecting their stated intention to seek NATO membership in the future. Both countries have taken part in NATO-led peace-keeping missions abroad and are now seeking “individual partnership” arrangements within the PfP framework that would move them closer to the Western bloc.
Armenia, which has close military ties with Russia, began participating in PfP activities in earnest only in 2001 and hosted the first NATO-led military exercise on its soil last June. In a further sign of its growing interest in the alliance, Yerevan has recently committed an army platoon for NATO’s ongoing peace operation in the former Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The Armenian troops are due to arrive in Kosovo next month.
Speaking at a joint news conference, Kocharian and Robertson said they reviewed the Armenia-NATO cooperation and discussed regional issues, including the political situation in Georgia. Robertson stressed the importance of the three regional countries’ involvement in the West’s ongoing “war on terror.”
"The Caucasus countries are now very much in the front line against terrorism,” Robertson said, adding that NATO is considering opening a permanent representation in the region.