By Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian left for Iraq on Monday morning.
Sarkisian gave a press briefing at the airport before departure during which he told the media that the goal of his visit is to get acquainted with the daily life and service conditions of Armenian servicemen in Iraq, as well as to meet Iraq’s defense minister and leadership of the multinational force.
Asked about the condition of Armenian senior lieutenant Georgi Nalbandian, who was wounded while on duty in Iraq last week, Sarkisian said that the officer had been transported to Germany for treatment and that his life was now out of danger. The minister said that after recuperation Nalbandian will return to Armenia to continue his service to the homeland.
The 25-year-old senior lieutenant of the Armenian peacekeeping contingent in Iraq lost his right leg below the knee in a mine explosion and received fragmentation wounds to his left leg.
“I express my support for his family and I am sure that we still need his experience and knowledge,” Sarkisian told the media.
“Armenia cannot only be a security consumer. It ought to have its modest but consistent contribution to the world security processes,” Sarkisian emphasized. “As time shows, our officers and soldiers are on an important and difficult mission, but it is first of all Armenia that needs this mission, and by their duty our soldiers once again confirm that Armenia is a full-fledged state.”
The defense minister said that a considerable number of Armenian soldiers and officers who have served in Iraq in the past two years have expanded their knowledge. “Certain officers use their experience of our [Karabakh] war and some young men just begin to serve in combat conditions,” the defense minister said, adding: “No doubt, it is useful for us.”
The minister also spoke about the prolongation of the term of service of Armenian peacekeepers in Iraq, saying that the Ministry of Defense had already submitted a related proposal to the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosian told RFE/RL on Monday that they haven’t yet received an application from the Ministry of Defense.
“I think when soldiers are sent to such hotspots no one wants them to be wounded there and everything is done to avoid that, but it is impossible to exclude that. I don’t think that people who went there did not know that there was a certain threat,” Torosian said.