By Emil Danielyan
Armenia runs the risk of being used by international terror networks despite stepping up counterterrorism measures and security cooperation with the United States, according to the U.S. State Department.
In its annual Country Reports on Terrorism sent to the U.S. Congress this week, the department described terrorism-related developments around the world and efforts to deal with them made by the U.S. and national governments in the course of last year.
“Although Armenia continued to strengthen its counterterrorism capabilities and enhanced its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and other international security organizations, its geographic location, porous borders, and loose visa regime still provided ample opportunities for traffickers of illicit materials, persons, and finances,” concluded its report. “Furthermore, endemic governmental corruption, a significant organized crime presence, and a large shadow economy made the country potentially vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing schemes.”
Detailing Armenia’s contribution to the U.S. war on terror, the report listed overflight and landing rights enjoyed by U.S. military aircraft and the presence of a small Armenian military unit in Iraq. It also pointed to the setting up by the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) of a U.S.-backed financial-intelligence unit tasked with detecting bank transactions used for laundering money and financing terrorist organizations. But it said the unit lacks legal powers and technical capacity to successfully accomplish its mission.
The State Department further praised Armenia for enhancing its border security and cooperating with the U.S. in identifying terror suspects entering the country. “While Armenia has no bilateral agreement with the United States governing the sharing of information on travelers, the [National Security Service] and [the Armenian police] shared information with the U.S. Embassy when they discovered fraudulent U.S. visas or other documents of interest to the United States,” it said.
The report at the same time indicated U.S. unease over Armenia’s growing ties with neighboring Iran, which Washington accuses of sponsoring international terrorism and seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It said last year’s visits to Yerevan by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “served to solidify previous bilateral commitments to develop joint energy and transportation projects.” “
“This closer cooperation has made Armenia more reluctant to criticize publicly objectionable Iranian conduct or join other UN member states in advocating for sanctions on the Iranian regime,” added the report.