Meeting with Rose Gottemoeller, a U.S. assistant secretary of state dealing with arms control, Sarkisian described the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty as “one of the pillars of security and stability in Europe.” He said Yerevan therefore remains committed to its “spirit and aims” and will comply with limitations placed by the treaty.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian gave similar assurances at a separate meeting with Gottemoeller. According to a statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian said at the same time that the CFE needs to be “updated.” The statement gave no details.
Signed in 1990 and revised in 1999, the CFE puts specific limits on the deployment of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia's Ural mountains. Armenia as well as neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan signed up to it after gaining independence.
Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian meets with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, 18Oct2011.
Despite setting equal arms ceilings for the three South Caucasus states, the treaty has has not prevented an intensifying arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latter has spent billions of dollars in oil revenues on a military build-up which Baku hopes will eventually enable it to win back Nagorno-Karabakh and other Armenian-controlled territories.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been accusing each other of exceeding their CFE quotas.
Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as saying that the alleged Azerbaijani non-compliance “has already created a serious danger for the entire region.” Nalbandian likewise complained to Gottemoeller about Azerbaijan’s “overt violation” of CFE terms.
Azerbaijani officials deny such claims. They say that Armenia itself keeps a large part of its military hardware in Karabakh in order to imitate its compliance with the treaty.
A senior U.S. diplomat said privately earlier this year that both warring nations are not honoring their CFE commitments.
The CFE allows signatory states to inspect each other’s compliance with the arms ceilings through random visits to just about any military facility. However, in line with a gentlemen’s agreement reached in the 1990s the Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries have never sent CFE inspectors to one another.