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Armenia is a “reliable partner” of NATO and its close ties with Russia have caused no problems for the Western alliance, according to a senior NATO envoy.

The official, James Appathurai, described as “excellent” the South Caucasus nation’s increased cooperation with NATO at the start of his latest visit to Yerevan on Monday.

“We fully respect the balanced foreign policy that Armenia has,” Appathurai told a news conference. “It causes us no complication that Armenia is, for example, in the [Russian-led] Collective Security Treaty Organization or the Eurasian Economic Union.”

“Armenia has been a reliable partner for NATO,” added NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s special representative for the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Appathurai met with President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday for talks that focused on NATO-Armenia ties, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and broader regional security. Armenia’s relationship with neighboring Iran was also on the agenda, according to a statement released by the presidential press office.

Armenia -- NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai at a news conference in Yerevan, 12 June, 2017.
Armenia -- NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai at a news conference in Yerevan, 12 June, 2017.

The statement said Sarkisian “recalled with fondness” his most recent meeting with Stoltenberg held at the NATO headquarters in Brussels in late February. Speaking after those talks, Stoltenberg praised NATO’s “partnership” with Armenia and spoke of “opportunities for us to cooperate more closely on interoperability, defense reform and defense education.”

Despite its close military alliance with Russia, Armenia has forged closer links with NATO -- and the United States in particular -- since the early 2000s. It currently contributes around 130 troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and regularly participates in multinational exercises organized by U.S. forces in Europe.

In 2015, Yerevan expressed readiness to participate in more such missions abroad with specialized medical and demining units. U.S. military instructors began training Armenian military personnel for that purpose last year.

Appathurai cautioned that while the two sides will carry on with their “steady cooperation” he does not expect “dramatic leaps forward” in their relations.

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