By Hrach Melkumian
The National Assembly gave on Saturday the unanimous go-ahead for the dispatch next month of a platoon of Armenian troops to the former Yugoslav region of Kosovo which will mark Yerevan’s first-ever peace-keeping mission abroad.
The deputies promptly ratified a relevant agreement between the Armenian and Greek militaries. It was signed in September during a visit to Armenia by General Georgios Antonakopoulos, the chief of Greece’s armed forces.
The army unit concerned, which numbers some 30 servicemen serving on a contractual basis, is part of a special Armenian peace-keeping battalion that has been trained and financed by Greece. It will be placed under the command of a Greek army battalion deployed in Kosovo along with thousands of troops from other NATO member nations, including the United States.
Kosovo has been run as a U.N. protectorate since the 1999 NATO air strikes that effectively ended Serbian rule in breakaway region which remains in a political limbo. The NATO-led peace-keeping force deployed there is key to preventing the resumption of hostilities.
The Armenian government’s decision to commit troops for the Kosovo mission, reflecting its desire to forge closer ties with the U.S.-dominated alliance, drew no objections from parliament deputies, including those representing the opposition minority. They voted without a debate.
Addressing the lawmakers, the chief of staff of the Armenian army, General Mikael Harutiunian, said the platoon’s participation in the NATO-led operation will increase “the international prestige” of Armenia and its military. He said the unit will be flown to Greece by the end of this month and will proceed to Kosovo some time in January.
It is expected that the Armenian peace-keepers will be rotated every six months.