Armenia announced plans to bolster the domestic defense industry through closer ties with NATO member states as it signed an agreement on wide-ranging bilateral military cooperation with Italy on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and his Italian counterpart, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, sealed the deal after talks in Yerevan. They said it commits the two nations to coordinating defense policies, training military personnel, jointly participating in multinational peacekeeping missions and forging links between their defense industries.
Ohanian emphasized the latter component of the accord. “Another direction [of Armenian-Italian military cooperation] is the area of defense industry, which will create a broad framework... for the Republic of Armenia to use Italy’s advanced experience,” he told a joint news conference with Di Paola.
“Armenia’s active participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program and other defense programs in recent years further underscores the need for Armenian-Italian military-technical cooperation,” Di Paola said for his part.
The Italian minister met with President Serzh Sarkisian at the start of a three-day visit to Armenia on Tuesday.
Armenia has until now relied almost exclusively on Russia, its main military ally, in developing its military-industrial complex. Russian-Armenian ties in that area appear to have deepened in the last few years. In particular, Moscow and Yerevan have set up joint defense enterprises within the framework of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization.
In December 2011, President Serzh Sarkisian approved a new government strategy of developing the Armenian defense industry. Artsrun Hovannisian, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, linked the signing of the Armenian-Italian agreement with that document.
“We have drawn up a concept for developing the defense industry, and this is one of our first steps in that direction,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He argued that Italy is a major player in global arms market. But he did not specify the Italian weapons and military technology the Armenian military is especially interested in.
Hovannisian added that the unfolding military-technical cooperation with Italy, a key NATO member state, will also give a further boos to Armenia’s growing ties with the Western alliance.