Armenia and Georgia have held fresh Western-sponsored training exercises aimed at improving their capacity to prevent illegal trafficking of weapons of mass destruction through their territories.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said on Friday that officials from the U.S. departments of state, defense and energy and the European Union participated in the field exercises held from July 9-12.
“The exercises used realistic scenarios to demonstrate and strengthen notification and response procedures in the event of illicit movement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related materials,” the embassy said in a statement. The statement did not specify their venue or give other details.
Armenian government bodies dealing with border security and nonproliferation issues issued no statements on the drills.
Armenia and Georgia already held joint exercises, in the command-and-staff format, for the same purpose in February. The Armenian Foreign Ministry reported at the time that they involved law-enforcement and other officials from the two neighboring states as well as “U.S. specialists.” It said they focused on procedures for “detecting and averting smuggling of weapons of mass destruction and WMD components through the Armenian-Georgian border.”
There have been several instances of enriched uranium confiscated by the Georgian authorities in recent years. In one such case, two Armenians were arrested in Tbilisi in March 2010 for allegedly trying to sell 18 grams (0.6 ounces) of uranium for $1.5 million.
Another Armenian national was detained in Yerevan at the time on charges of supplying the radioactive material to the two men. He was subsequently tried by an Armenian court and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said in November 2010 that it has closely cooperated with Georgian law-enforcement authorities in their secret probe of the alleged uranium smuggling.
The fact that Armenia borders on Iran might also explain why the United States is interested in closer Armenian-Georgian cooperation against WMD trafficking.
“U.S. and EU cooperation with Armenia reflects a shared commitment to preventing nuclear and other WMD-related materials from falling into the hands of terrorists, smugglers, and proliferators,” the U.S. Embassy said on Friday. It said the latest exercises “strengthen this collaboration.”