Thirty-nine Armenian soldiers flew to Macedonia on Friday to take part in NATO-led military exercises that will simulate a multinational peacekeeping operation spearheaded by the Western alliance.
The exercises codenamed Cooperative Longbow and Cooperative Lancer are due to take place on from May 21-29 and involve some 1,000 troops from about two dozen NATO member and partner states, including Azerbaijan and Georgia.
“The aim of the exercises is to educate, train and exercise delegations of selected partner nation armed forces in order to promote interoperability with NATO land forces,” read a NATO statement issued late last month. “The scenario for both exercises … is based on a fictitious United Nations-mandated, NATO-led Crisis Response Operation,” it said.
The Armenian Defense Ministry likewise said that the participants will practice joint peacekeeping activities such as patrolling streets, escorting convoys and manning road checkpoints. In a statement, it said this will improve the professional skills of Armenian soldiers participating in multinational military operations and strengthen Yerevan’s “partnership with international security organizations.”
The drills will also underscore Armenia’s increased cooperation with NATO under the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) launched in 2005 and repeatedly modified since then. President Serzh Sarkisian reaffirmed his government’s desire to continue deepening those ties as when met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and addressed the alliance’s top decision-making body in Brussels in March.
The army platoon that left for Macedonia is part of a special peacekeeping brigade of Armenia’s Armed Forces that has contributed troops to international security missions. Almost 130 members of the volunteer unit are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).