Armenia will again send peacekeeping troops to Kosovo this month in line with an agreement reached with the United States, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said in a newspaper interview published on Monday.
Ohanian told the Armenian Defense Ministry’s “Hay Zinvor” newspaper that the agreement was signed during his visit to Washington last March. He said Armenian soldiers will serve in Kosovo under U.S. command. He did not specify the size of the contingent.
Armenia ended its participation in NATO’s peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslav region early this year. Ohanian said at the time that a 35-strong platoon of the Armenian Armed Forces returned home because of an ongoing reduction in the size of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) reflecting improved security conditions in the newly independent state.
In particular, he pointed to the pullout of most of a Greek peacekeeping battalion stationed there since 1999. The Armenian contingent was part of that battalion which served in an area controlled by KFOR’s U.S.-led Multinational Brigade East.
Ohanian made clear in February that Armenia is ready to send peacekeepers back to Kosovo if another NATO member state agrees to cover their logistical expenses in place of Greece.
The dispatch of Armenian soldiers in Kosovo in February 2004 marked the start of Armenia’s first-ever military mission abroad. Yerevan contributed dozens of troops to the U.S. occupation force in Iraq and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan in the following years. The number of Armenian troops serving in Afghanistan was almost tripled to about 130 in June 2011.
The missions have highlighted Armenia’s growing military ties with NATO and the United States in particular. Speaking to “Hay Zinvor,” Ohanian put the renewed Armenian involvement in KFOR in the context of those ties, saying that they entered a “more coordinated and targeted phase” last year.
“I think that U.S.-Armenian defense cooperation has a great potential for development, and we have quite a lot do in that direction,” the minister said. That cooperation is mainly aimed at strengthening Armenia’s “peacekeeping capacity” and supporting ongoing reforms of the Armenian military, he added.
Meeting with Ohanian at the Pentagon in late March, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed appreciation for Yerevan’s “strong contributions” to the NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The Armenian defense chief also held separate talks in Washington with CIA Director David Petraeus and senior U.S. State Department officials.