The United States heaped praise on Armenia on Friday for planning to expand its participation in multinational peacekeeping operations as part of growing military cooperation with NATO.
The Armenian government insisted, meanwhile, that its security ties with NATO and the U.S. in particular will not be adversely affected by its plans to join a new Russian-led alliance of former Soviet states.
“We don’t expect our cooperation with NATO member states or other Western countries to be limited in any way,” First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). Tonoyan said Armenia will continue seeking NATO assistance in reforming its armed forces and enhancing its peacekeeping capacity.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan singled out the latter component of Armenia-NATO cooperation in a statement issued at the close of a “NATO Week” in the South Caucasus state. “Armenia is actively seeking to expand its peacekeeping commitments, both with NATO and the UN, and is negotiating to support missions in Lebanon and Mali,” said the statement. “We welcome Armenia’s willingness to contribute to peace operations around the world and are eager to support Armenian contributions to peace operations.”
The embassy made clear that the U.S. will keep giving technical and material aid to a special Armenian army brigade that has provided troops to ongoing NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. About 200 Armenian soldiers are currently serving there under German and U.S. command.
Yerevan also plans to contribute next year some 60 troops to a United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon. It has made no final decision yet on joining a similar UN mission in Mali.
“Armenia is well on its way to developing a peacekeeping brigade that is interoperable with its partners and capable to be deployed in support to various peace operations,” said the U.S. Embassy statement. “Armenia is making great strides towards developing this highly-trained and capable brigade and the Embassy would like to congratulate Armenia on its excellent progress.”
Armenia’s ties with NATO have been developing under an “individual partnership action plan,” or IPAP. The cooperation framework was launched in 2005 and has been repeatedly modified since then. Tonoyan indicated that Yerevan will stick to the IPAP despite its forthcoming accession to the Russian-led Customs Union and a further deepening of the Russian-Armenian military alliance.
The main highlight of the NATO Week in Armenia was an international seminar held at the Defense Ministry in Yerevan on Tuesday. It discussed NATO’s experience in “building integrity” and reducing corruption in the military.