By Gevorg Stamboltsian
Armenia sent a new platoon of peace-keepers to Kosovo on Wednesday in place of troops that returned home the previous night after completing a seven-month mission in the breakaway Serbian region under NATO command.
The 34 soldiers and officers left Yerevan on board a Greek military plane following an official farewell ceremony attended by high-ranking military officials. Some of them put Armenia’s participation in the NATO-led peace-keeping mission in Kosovo in the context of a global fight against terrorism.
“At a time when the entire world is combating terror … you are going to maintain peace, protect women and children and present the good will of the Armenian people,” Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Khachaturov said in a speech. “Rest assured that we are with you, always ready to help you out.”
The troops replaced a similar platoon of which was part of a Greek peace-keeping battalion stationed in the south of Kosovo controlled by the U.S. military. The platoon, which launched Armenia’s first-ever military mission abroad, was flown back to Yerevan where its servicemen were greeted by army generals and family members at a separate ceremony late on Tuesday. Officials say NATO commanders are very satisfied with their track record in Kosovo.
Both units are part of a special peace-keeping battalion of the Armenian army which was set up in 2002 with the financial and technical assistance of NATO member Greece. The Greek military also pays the salaries of Armenian soldiers serving in Kosovo.
(Photolur photo: An Armenian soldier embraced by his wife on his return from Kosovo on Tuesday.)