By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The parliamentary defense commission chief has denied that there is an official agreement regarding the redeployment of Russia’s military bases in Georgia to Armenia.
Mher Shahgeldian, who also heads Armenia’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said on Wednesday that the matter may concern only the supply of Russia’s existing military base on Armenian soil with new military hardware and ammunition, which is routinely done from Russia.
“But in this case, as far as I am informed, the deliveries may be done not from Russia,” he said, emphasizing that there is no official agreement about any expansion of Russia’s military base in Armenia or establishment of new ones.
Last week official Yerevan refused to confirm or deny reports by Russian news agencies that Russia had begun relocating to Armenia equipment from its two military bases in Georgia that are due to be closed within the next four years.
The reported relocation had begun the day after the announcement of a Russian-Georgian agreement on a timetable for the closure of the Russian bases stationed in Batumi and the Armenian-populated town of Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia.
It is not clear how many pieces of military hardware the Russian military plan to relocate to Armenia. The Russian contingent in Georgia reportedly numbers 3,000 servicemen, 115 tanks, 220 armored personnel carriers and 170 artillery systems.
Shahgeldian was speaking in Yerevan several days after the return of Armenia’s delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s session in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where according sources in Azerbaijan Azeri delegates asked their Armenian colleagues to convey their thanks to the president of Armenia for what they called his “readiness to hand over the seven occupied regions of Azerbaijan”.
The Azeri delegates themselves denied it in their interviews to the Azeri press.
But the denial of the Azeri “thank-you” messages to the Armenian head of state by the Armenian delegates today looked unconvincing, which aroused suspicions among observers.
Delegation member from Azgayin Miabanutyun Aleksan Karapetian denies that the matter at issue was thanking of Robert Kocharian for the seven regions and calls it a propaganda stunt.
“They expressed their great appreciation for what they called a constructive approach of the Kocharian-Aliev meeting to the issue of handing over the seven regions,” he said. “I don’t believe that Armenia’s only he-man Robert Kocharian may have given a signature or a promise about these seven regions. He will sooner tender his resignation than sign such a deal.”
(Photolur photo: Karapetian, right, and Shahgeldian, speaking at the news conference)