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By Emil Danielyan
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov paid a brief and apparently unplanned visit to Yerevan over the weekend to discuss his country’s close military ties with Armenia.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said Serdyukov arrived in Yerevan late Friday and flew back to Moscow the next day after meeting with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. A short ministry statement said the two men discussed “issues relating to bilateral military cooperation.” It gave no details.

Russia’s Defense Ministry could not be reached for comment on Monday, and its website had no information about the talks. The Russian embassy in Armenia had no comment on their details.

Serdyukov traveled to Armenia as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrapped up a two-day trip to Yerevan that focused on the aftermath of the Russian-Georgian war and the future of the Russian-Armenian relationship. Lavrov and his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian reaffirmed their government’s intention to strengthen its military and economic components.

Unlike Lavrov, the Russian defense chief did not meet President Serzh Sarkisian and avoided any contacts with media during the trip. He went into talks with Ohanian as Armenia hosted NATO-led military exercises reflecting its growing defense and security links with the West. The Armenian government has made clear that it will not reconsider those ties despite the Georgia-related spike in tensions between NATO and Russia, Armenia’s closest military ally.

Lavrov indicated on Friday that Moscow is not concerned about the development of NATO-Armenia ties seeing as Yerevan is not seeking eventual membership in the U.S.-led alliance.

Armenia’s official military doctrine, unveiled last December, states that Yerevan will increasingly work together with the armed forces of NATO member states in reforming its military and contributing to international security. It commits the Armenian military to expanding its involvement in Western-led peace-keeping operations abroad.

But the doctrine makes it clear that “strategic partnership” with Russia will remain the bedrock of Armenia’s defense policy. It says the two countries will continue to maintain close military ties both on a bilateral basis and within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Armenia assumed the rotating presidency of the Russian-led alliance of six former Soviet republics last month.

(Russian Defense Ministry photo: Anatoly Serdyukov)
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