The Armenian Defense Ministry sent a team of military officials to northeastern Turkey on Monday for its second-ever on-site inspection of Ankara’s compliance with a key international arms control treaty.
A ministry statement said they will spend the next few days counting the military hardware and other equipment at a Turkish military base located in Dogubeyazit, a town close to the Turkish-Armenian border. It said they will try to verify whether the heavy weapons kept there exceed quotas set by the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.
Signed in 1990 and revised in 1999, the CFE places specific limits on the deployment of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to Russia's Ural mountains. Armenia as well as neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan signed up to it after gaining independence.
Signatories to the treaty are allowed to inspect each other’s compliance with the arms ceilings through random visits to just about any military facility. Military delegations from Turkey and other NATO member states have regularly traveled to Armenia for this purpose since the mid-1990s.
It was not until March 2010 that the Armenian military first sent a group of CFE inspectors to Turkey. According to the Defense Ministry statement, they toured army bases in four other Turkish cities close to the Armenian border: Ardahan, Kars, Igdir and Sarikamis.
“No facts contradicting the Vienna Document were found,” added the statement.
Despite setting equal arms quotas for all three South Caucasus states, the CFE has failed to prevented an intensifying arms race between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latter has been increasingly using its soaring oil revenues for a military build-up which Baku hopes will eventually enable it to win back Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been accusing each other of exceeding their CFE ceilings. Azerbaijan says that Armenia keeps a large part of its weaponry in Karabakh to imitate its compliance with the pact. Armenian officials, for their part, accuse Baku of obstructing international inspections of its military facilities.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries have never sent CFE inspectors to one another in line with a gentlemen’s agreement dating back to the 1990s.