By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Greece’s top army general wrapped up on Wednesday a three-day official visit to Yerevan with a pledge to increase military assistance to Armenia, saying that the two countries share common geopolitical goals.
“Greece will provide whatever assistance it can in order to strengthen Armenia’s armed forces,” General Georgios Antonakopoulos, chief of the Greek army staff, told a news conference following what he described as “effective negotiations” with President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian officials.
Antonakopoulos and his Armenian opposite number, General Mikael Harutiunian, said the two militaries agreed to broaden the scope of their cooperation. “Armenia and Greece pursue common strategic aims, and our cooperation in the areas of defense and security must have a continuous development,” Harutiunian said. Their militaries will agree this November a plan of joint activities for next year, he added.
The two army chiefs said the Greek-Armenian defense ties will take new forms, but would not be drawn on their specifics, with Antonakopoulos confirming only that they will involve military-technical cooperation. But he was quick to add that the two nations “do not produce a large quantity of weapons to sell them to each other.”
Another manifestation of the deepening ties will be the impending dispatch of a platoon of Armenian peace-keepers to Kosovo where they will be placed under Greek command. An appropriate memorandum of understanding was signed by the two generals. It is due to be ratified by Kocharian and Armenia’s parliament.
“After a positive solution to the issue we will be able to send the troops to Kosovo by the end of 2003,” Harutiunian said.
The small unit numbering some 30 soldiers is part of Armenia’s Greek-trained peace-keeping battalion formed last year. It will mark the country’s first-ever military mission abroad. The troops were inspected this week by Greek officers accompanying Antonakopoulos.