Armenia can continue to deepen relations with NATO while maintaining its military alliance with Russia, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Yerevan on Thursday.
“We respect and appreciate Armenia’s balanced foreign and security policy,” Rasmussen told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Let me stress that there is no contradiction between having good relations with Russia and at the same time having a well-functioning partnership with NATO. NATO itself has a special relationship with Russia.”
“I see potential for further development of our partnership,” he said.
“We now have an opportunity to build an even stronger partnership for the future. It’s an opportunity we must seize because we all have to gain and so does the region as a whole,” Rasmussen said after talks with President Serzh Sarkisian later in the day.
Sarkisian similarly stated that Armenia will continue combining its membership of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with growing cooperation with the Western alliance.
“We have always said that we consider membership in the CSTO an important integral part of our country’s military-political security … I really don’t think that NATO and the CSTO are rival organizations,” he told a joint news conference with the NATO chief.
Forging close ties with NATO is “useful” for Armenia, said Sarkisian. “I frankly told Mr. Secretary General at our meeting that cooperation with NATO stems from our country’s interests,” he added.
Armenia’s ties with NATO have deepened significantly under the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) launched in 2005 and repeatedly modified since then. The cooperation commits the country to implementing wide-ranging defense reforms and participating in NATO-led missions abroad.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Rasmussen praised Yerevan for deploying troops in Afghanistan and Kosovo. “Armenian troops and troops from NATO countries have learned to work together during these missions,” he said. “I think it’s of utmost importance that we continue such work to make sure that our armed forces can actually work effectively together because that will make it easier also to participate in future international peacekeeping missions.”