Senior Armenian and NATO officials have met in Brussels to review increased bilateral cooperation, reportedly agreeing on the U.S.-led alliance’s continued support for ongoing reforms of Armenia’s armed forces.
An Armenian military delegation headed by First Deputy Defense Minister Tonoyan visited the NATO headquarters for a regular meeting with NATO’s Political and Partnerships Committee (PPC) held on Monday. A statement released by Armenia’s Defense Ministry the following day said they mapped out joint actions planned for this year.
The statement said Tonoyan briefed members of the committee on “the course of defense reforms implemented in Armenia.” It added that the two sides “attached importance to ensuring the continuity” of assistance to those reforms provided by NATO and its individual member states, notably the United States. NATO officials praised progress that has already been made by Yerevan in boosting the civilian oversight and the transparency of the armed forces, according to the statement.
NATO has been specifically helping the Armenian military increase the number of non-commissioned officers serving on a contractual basis. As recently as last month, 46 Armenian sergeants underwent a week-long training course held by U.S. military instructors at the Defense Ministry’s Warrant Officer School. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern attended their graduation ceremony.
“This course supports the U.S. mission to sustain strong relationships with other armies, building their capacity and facilitating strategic access, which will lead to stronger regional stability,” the U.S. Embassy said in a March 3 statement. It said more such training programs will be organized in the months to come.
Some of the U.S.-trained sergeants serve in an Armenian army brigade that contributes troops to the NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The U.S. and several other NATO member states have provided considerable technical and material aid to the brigade over the past decade.
The Armenian government has insisted in recent months that its security ties with Washington and NATO in general will not be adversely affected by its plans to join a new Russian-dominated alliance of ex-Soviet states. Tonoyan said last December after talks with Evelyn Farkas, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Eurasia, that Yerevan plans to step up that cooperation.
While in Brussels, Tonoyan also met with James Appathurai, NATO’s deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs. The Defense Ministry statement said they discussed not only Armenia-NATO ties but also regional security issues.