The new Georgian government does not regard Russian troops stationed in Armenia as a threat to Georgia’s national security, Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said during an official visit to Yerevan on Thursday.
Speaking after talks with his Armenian counterpart Seyran Ohanian, Alasania drew a distinction between the Russian military bases in Armenia and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“We spoke with the defense minister of Armenia about dangers existing in the region,” he told a joint news conference. “We said that the presence of Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia poses a danger to Georgia.”
“But as regards the Russian military base in Armenia, we are convinced that the Armenian side will not allow it be used to the detriment Georgia’s interests,” added Alasania.
Georgia’s previous government headed by President Mikheil Saakashvili made no secret of its unease over the Russian military presence in Armenia. Former Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze voiced such concerns when he visited Yerevan in October 2010, over two years after the Russian-Georgian war in South Ossetia.
In April 2011, the Georgian parliament decided not to renew an agreement allowing Russia to use Georgian territory for making shipments to its base headquartered in Gyumri. Alasania’s predecessor, Bacho Akhalaia, visited Yerevan the day before the move initiated by Saakashvili.
In other remarks that should have pleased the Armenian side, Alasania said Georgia stands for only peaceful resolution of all ethnic conflicts in the South Caucasus.
Ohanian noted the convergence of Tbilisi’s and Yerevan’s positions on conflict resolution as well as broader regional security. He also said that Georgian-Armenian military cooperation is “dynamically developing.”
“We have already decided the directions of our cooperation for 2013,” the Armenian minister told journalists. “Those are military education, peacekeeping, strategic reforms as well as training of special forces at mountain training centers. We also decided to improve the existing legal framework [for bilateral cooperation.]”
Alasania, for his part, said they agreed on the need for “an exchange of experience” between the Armenian and Georgian militaries through education programs and joint exercises.