By Armen Zakarian
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian submitted Armenia’s individual partnership action plan (IPAP) with NATO to the Alliance’s Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer while their meeting in Brussels today.
Samvel Mkrtchian, Armenia’s ambassador to NATO, told RFE/RL from Brussels that during the meeting the sides also discussed the issue of Nagorno Karabakh, with Serge Sarkisian expressing “certain optimism of the Armenian side about positive developments in the negotiations process.”
In this context Sarkisian also reportedly voiced an opinion that the individual partnership action plan will contribute to the settlement of regional conflicts.
So far Armenia’s relations with NATO have been built around another project called Partnership for Peace (PfP). This project was proposed to Armenia by Brussels in the mid-90s, but Armenia, which was still recovering from the war in Karabakh at that time, would not join it until Russia did so.
Mkrtchian explains that IPAP will be conducted within the framework of the PfP.
“It is a serious step that raises relations with NATO to a new level,” he told RFE/RL, adding that Armenia considers cooperation with NATO as one of the major components of its overall security policy.
The U.S.-led alliance clearly showed its interest in developing relations with the South Caucasus states still last year after its Istanbul summer first by appointing a special representative to the South Caucasus and Central Asia and then a cooperation officer separately for the South Caucasus.
In the last six months Armenia has been working on the plan for which purpose an ad hoc commission had been set up co-chaired by the country’s defense and foreign ministers.
The idea of IPAP was born still during the Prague summit of NATO about 2.5 years ago as a cooperation project designed for countries not intending to apply for NATO membership immediately but deeming cooperation with it essential.
Armenia has submitted a plan for the next two years subject to evaluation upon the completion of this period.
Another two-year plan is to be drawn thereafter.
The document presented today also dwells on the country’s goals in terms of political and economic reforms.
Mkrtchian said that there are also wide-ranging goals to reorganize Armenia’s armed forces to make them compatible with the armed forces of NATO-member countries which, he said, will allow Armenia to get actively involved in NATO operations in different regions of the world.
“This is not the matter to be resolved within one day. But it is within this framework that Armenia will unfold its cooperation with NATO,” the ambassador concluded.