NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised Armenia for extending its military presence in Afghanistan and developing a “strong partnership” with the U.S.-led alliance as he met with the Armenian defense and foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian visited the NATO headquarters in the Belgian capital for an annual meeting with NATO’s executive body, the North Atlantic Council. They also held separate talks with Fogh Rasmussen.
“Both sides stressed their commitment to continue developing a strong partnership,” read a NATO statement on the talks. It said they have already “developed a solid political dialogue and a broad range of civilian and military areas of cooperation.”
That cooperation has significantly increased over the past decade in line with an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). The repeatedly modified cooperation framework has led to Armenia’s participation in NATO-led multinational missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo and reforms of its armed forces.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Ohanian briefed the North Atlantic Council comprising ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member states on the status of the ongoing defense reforms. Nalbandian, for his part, spoke about Armenian foreign policy, regional security and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a ministry statement said.
Nalbandian and Rasmussen announced at the council meeting that the two sides are about to launch a fresh version of the IPAP laying out joint activities for 2014-2017. The NATO chief was also reported to thank Armenia for deciding to keep 120 or so Armenian soldiers in Afghanistan after the official completion of NATO-led combat operations there in December. The Defense Ministry in Yerevan reaffirmed last week that they will join a new NATO mission dubbed Resolute Support.
The talks in Brussels come as a further indication that Armenia, which is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has no intention to freeze ties to NATO because of Russia’s standoff with the West over the crisis in Ukraine.
The CSTO’s secretary general, Nikolay Bordyuzha, said late last month that the military alliance of six ex-Soviet states is suspending cooperation with NATO because of the latter’s stance on Ukraine. He accused NATO of “blackmailing” the CSTO member states.
Visiting Yerevan in 2012, Fogh Rasmussen said that Armenia can continue to deepen relations with NATO while maintaining its military alliance with Russia. “There is no contradiction between having good relations with Russia and at the same time having a well-functioning partnership with NATO,” he said at the time.