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By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia has made considerable progress in developing its relations with NATO under the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) launched more than a year ago, a visiting senior NATO official said on Monday.

“Quite recently I was looking into different documents, the assessment which is conducted on a periodic basis, and I was really struck by the dedication of your country to implementing the general framework of this IPAP and its different components,” Jean Fournet, NATO’s assistant secretary general for public diplomacy, told reporters in Yerevan.

“I was also impressed by a report drafted by my colleagues from different departments of NATO who visited your country recently,” he added. “They came back from here with this very positive sign that you are on the right track.”

Fournet was speaking at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian that followed a meeting between the two men. Implementation of Armenia’s IPAP was high on the agenda of the talks.

The policy framework, which was launched in December 2005, aims to step up Armenia’s political and military cooperation with the U.S.-led alliance. In particular, Yerevan undertook to embark on a major reform of its armed forces that should bring their structure into greater conformity with NATO armies and thereby boost their interoperability with the latter. Another stated aim of the IPAP is the democratization of Armenia’s political structure, strengthening of its judiciary and a fight against corruption.

“Within one year a lot has been already achieved,” said Fournet. The NATO official is scheduled to meet with other Armenian leaders on Tuesday.

Oskanian, for his part, reiterated that membership in NATO is not on his government’s foreign policy agenda. “[The IPAP’s] full implementation will probably take a lot of time,” her said. “So we concentrate on that document in developing our relations with NATO.”

The two men also officially inaugurated on Monday a NATO information center in Yerevan which is supposed to increase Armenians’ awareness of the alliance and its goals. Oskanian said the center will also seek to explain to the local public that there is no contradiction between Armenia’s drive to strengthen security ties with the West and its continued membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.

“Our policies of recent years have proved that there is no such contradiction,” he said. “By means of this office we will be able to spread correct information about the mission of NATO and the essence of its cooperation with Armenia.”

(Photolur photo)
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