Armenia plans to contribute troops this year to a United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in southern Lebanon, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
“Italy, which leads the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, has officially offered Armenia through the UN to add an Armenian contingent to the mission,” the ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Negotiations are now underway with Italy’s Defense Ministry and the UN regarding the structure, deployment site, number of troops, supplies and other issues,” Hovannisian said. A team of Armenian military officials will travel to Rome next week to discuss the issue with their Italian counterparts, he said.
In Hovannisian’s words, that will be followed by a separate visit to the Italian capital by General Yuri Khachaturov, chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff. “It is envisaged that two Armenian peacekeeping platoons will be dispatched to Lebanon already in the course of this year,” added the official.
Armenia’s participation in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) requires the consent of its parliament. The Armenian government has yet to approach the National Assembly for that purpose.
The UNIFIL was deployed along Lebanon’s border with Israel and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in 1978 to maintain peace and stability in the area. The multinational mission currently numbers around 11,000 troops from over 30 countries, including Italy, Germany and Turkey. Its mandate was broadened by the UN following the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.
Hovannisian said that Armenia was offered to join the mission because of its peacekeepers’ positive record in other international trouble spots.
Over 130 Armenian soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan, while 35 others serve in Kosovo.