The United States has “excellent” cooperation with Armenia in a number of areas, including in various peacekeeping efforts in which the South Caucasus nation “has proven that it is willing and able to contribute internationally,” according to a visiting Pentagon official.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter met on Wednesday with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan to discuss issues related to the deepening of cooperation in the military, international, and regional security areas.
According to the presidential press service, during the meeting Carpenter expressed his gratitude for Armenia’s contribution to the peacekeeping efforts, including NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and KFOR in Kosovo.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) the Pentagon official also spoke about cooperation with Armenia.
“We do training here, we do joint exercises, we have robust engagements, consultations. So, generally speaking, we are very pleased with the level of cooperation. Of course, we would like to deepen it and do more. And that is part of what I came here to discuss as to where there might be areas where we can expand our training,” he said.
Carpenter said that while the United States and Russia do have a complicated relationship and disagree “on many fronts”, including Ukraine and Syria, “here in Armenia and within the broader region we are partners as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and we have very much sought to compartmentalize this area and work collaboratively together.”
“It is in our interest to see a diplomatic resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. So, we are willing to work with our Russian partners and try and seek that resolution, if it’s possible,” the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense said.
Asked about his position on Russian arms deliveries to the region, the Pentagon official said: “I think it’s unfortunate and highly destabilizing for a country to be providing an influx of weapons into an area where clearly lives are lost almost every month along the line of contact on both sides. And so for a country that is mediating to be selling weapons or providing weapons, I believe, is inappropriate.”
Carpenter stressed that in that regard the U.S. policies have been not to provide additional military capabilities. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t have defense relationships with both Azerbaijan and Armenia. But I think pumping weapons and capability into a region like this is not a way to resolve the conflict peacefully,” he said.
Russia, which is Armenia’s top military and political ally, has supplied up to 4 billion dollars’ worth of arms, including some modern offensive weapons, to Azerbaijan since 2011. Azerbaijan used some of these weapons during the brief deadly hostilities with ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh in April.
According to Carpenter, the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this year showed that the conflict is “far from frozen”. “So we are worried that things could escalate. It is a dangerous situation and it underscores the need for finding a diplomatic resolution as soon as it’s possible,” he said.
Watch the full interview with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter in the video below: