Armenia is ready to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali and thereby expand its participation in multinational military operations around the world, a senior Armenian Foreign Ministry official said on Monday.
“The next [deployment] should presumably be in Mali seeing as we already have one staff officer there,” embedded with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Samvel Mkrtchian told journalists.
“We are currently continuing negotiations with the UN and other partners in order to identify the area and have the capacity that would enable us to participate in other operations,” he said.
Mkrtchian would not be drawn on the number of troops Yerevan is prepared to send to Mali and possible dates for their deployment.
MINUSMA was launched in 2013 by a UN Security Council resolution adopted one year after a Tuareg rebellion in the African nation’s northern regions. Led by a Danish army general, the mission currently numbers several thousand troops from about 40 states.
A total of 123 Armenian soldiers are currently serving in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Earlier this year, the Armenian military expressed readiness to step up its participation in the UNFIL which is led by NATO member Italy.
President Serzh Sarkisian reaffirmed his government’s commitment to a greater Armenian involvement in multinational missions when he addressed a UN peacekeeping summit organized by U.S. President Barack Obama in New York in late September. Sarkisian said Yerevan will specifically commit specialized medical and demining units to ongoing or future peacekeeping operations.
First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan clarified afterwards that the Armenian military will be ready to deploy in the coming years a mobile field hospital and sappers trained to deal with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by “terrorist groups.” He said they will undergo additional training by NATO military instructors before being sent to trouble spots.
A peacekeeping brigade of the Armenian Armed Forces has already received large-scale assistance from the U.S., Germany, Greece and other NATO member states since it was set up over a decade ago. In September, the U.S.-led alliance upgraded its evaluation of the brigade’s combat readiness and interoperability with NATO forces.