By Armen Zakarian
After more than a year of negotiations with NATO, Armenia has embarked on the implementation of an “individual partnership action plan” (IPAP) that should bring it closer to the U.S.-led alliance and result in a reform of its military.
The two-year plan of joint activities, which formally took effect on December 16, upgrades Armenia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program designed for members of the former Communist bloc.
Neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia developed individual partnerships with NATO earlier. Armenia’s decision to follow suit was welcomed by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during his visit to Yerevan in November 2004. NATO’s special representative to the South Caucasus and Central Asia, Robert Simmons, likewise called it a “significant step ahead in relations between the alliance and Armenia” last February.
Armenia’s permanent representative to the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Samvel Mkrtchian, told RFE/RL on Wednesday that the IPAP will cover a broad range of defense-related areas. Mkrtchian said that as part of the plan Yerevan committed itself to carrying out “defense reforms” that will lead, among other things, to greater civilian control of the Armenian military.
The essence of those reforms was outlined by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in a speech at an international conference in Yerevan that was organized by NATO in October. “As a result of such activities Armenia will have a greater capability to interact with European and Euro-Atlantic structures,” Sarkisian said. Closer cooperation with those structures is now one of the “guarantees of ensuring Armenia’s security,” he said.
According to Mkrtchian, the Armenian government will decide how to continue its cooperation with NATO after by the time it completes the IPAP in late 2007. “ As regards which political decision will be made by Armenia’s leadership next and how committed NATO will be to developing those relations, it will be clarified in the process,” he said.
Unlike Azerbaijan and especially Georgia, Armenia has not expressed a desire to eventually join NATO. Armenian leaders say the military alliance with Russia remains the bedrock of their national security doctrine.