The Armenian government downplayed the significance of growing military ties between neighboring Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey on Wednesday, while saying that it is mindful of their possible “damaging impact” on Armenia.
The defense ministers of the three states reportedly pledged to step up trilateral cooperation when they met in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan on Tuesday. According to the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, they decided to hold more such talks twice a year and conduct joint military exercises with the aim of protecting regional oil and gas pipelines. Closer contacts will also increase the interoperability of the Azerbaijani, Georgian and Turkish armed forces, said the ministry.
The presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey met in Tbilisi in May. They reportedly focused on joint energy and transportation projects, among them the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway bypassing Armenia.
Commenting on the Nakhichevan talks, First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said Yerevan is “not quite” concerned by Georgia’s deepening defense links with Armenia’s two arch-foes. “With neighboring Georgia Armenia has a wide range of mutual security interests, as evidenced by a number of cooperation initiatives, including in the area of defense,” he said in written comments to the official Armenpress news agency. “I think that Georgia’s participation will restrain a juxtaposition of these trilateral relations with Armenia’s national security interests.”
“Nevertheless, the consequences of this cooperation are fully incorporated into Armenia’s strategic considerations for defense planning along with the calculation of their projected damaging impact,” added Tonoyan.
Georgia’s Defense Minister Irakli Alasania told Georgian media ahead of the Nakhichevan meeting that it is “not directed against anyone.”
Alasania and his Armenian counterpart, Seyran Ohanian, most recently met in Tbilisi in July 2013. Ohanian said after their talks that Georgian-Armenian military ties have been “dynamically” developing since 2011.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili is due to arrive in Yerevan on Thursday for a two-day official visit.