The United States and Armenia reportedly pledged on Thursday to step up bilateral cooperation on preventing smuggling of radioactive materials through Armenian territory.
Diplomats and security officials from the two countries met in Yerevan and, according to the U.S. Embassy in the Armenian capital, “reaffirmed the need to cooperate more closely to prevent terrorists and other criminals from acquiring black market nuclear material.”
“These discussions continued ongoing bilateral cooperation initiated in December 2007 to advance Armenia’s capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear and other radioactive material smuggling incidents,” the embassy said in a statement.
The statement cited a plan of joint U.S.-Armenian actions on nuclear nonproliferation signed in 2008. “Within this framework, both sides shared information on current nuclear smuggling threats and trends, and discussed best practices in the areas of nuclear detection, nuclear forensics, law enforcement investigations, and other tools to prevent, detect, and respond to incidents of nuclear smuggling,” it said.
John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, mentioned the meeting and praised the “important partnership” with Yerevan in a Twitter post.
Possible nuclear smuggling through Armenian territory has been a source of U.S. concerns that apparently stem, in large measure, from the country’s proximity to Iran. The U.S. government has supplied Armenian border guard and customs services with U.S.-made radio-communication systems, border sensors, metal detectors, cargo truck scales, and X-ray devices over the past decade.
It also donated modern equipment to a special laboratory that was inaugurated at Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear plant in January 2013. The facility is supposed to conduct forensic tests needed in the prosecution of smugglers.
In addition, Washington sponsored in 2012 a series of Armenian-Georgian exercises aimed at improving the capacity of the two South Caucasus states to combat illegal trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. Officials from the U.S. departments of state, defense and energy took part in the nonproliferation drills.