By Emil Danielyan
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian called for the deepening of defense and security ties between Armenia and Britain during talks with a visiting senior British official on Wednesday.
Meeting with British Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon, Sarkisian suggested that the two countries draw up “long-term programs of military cooperation.” A statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry cited him as saying that such programs are needed for achieving “tangible results” in the ongoing bilateral activities in the areas of international peace-keeping, military training and defense reforms.
The statement said Hoon, who served as Britain’s defense secretary from 1999-2005, welcomed the idea and expressed his readiness to help to solve “problems arising during the deepening of [British-Armenian] cooperation.” It did not give further details, saying only that the two men also discussed the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other challenges to regional security .
Hoon arrived in Yerevan on Tuesday and left it later on Wednesday as part of his tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The low-key visit involved no talks with President Robert Kocharian, with Hoon meeting only with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. The latter’s press office did not immediately release any statements on the meeting.
Sarkisian’s calls for closer British-Armenian military ties came amid Yerevan’s growing cooperation with NATO and the U.S. military in particular under an “individual partnership action plan” which was launched late last year. Sarkisian has repeatedly stated that that cooperation is now an increasingly important elements of Armenia’s national security doctrine that continues to be anchored in a military alliance with Russia.