A senior Armenian official on Wednesday criticized continuing Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan but made clear that they will not undermine Armenia’s close military ties with Russia.
“Azerbaijan is not the kind of state that can be supplied with weapons because weapons ought to be sold to those countries that aim to use them for self-defense. I hope that everyone will agree with this over time,” said deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, who is also the chief spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
“On the other hand, this must not impede the deepening of Russian-Armenian strategic military-political relations,” Sharmazanov told reporters. “They must not be conditioned only by Russian-Azerbaijani relations. Russian-Armenian relations are deeper and stem from the interests of the two countries.”
Russia has sold around $5 billion worth of tanks, artillery systems and other weapons to Azerbaijan in line with defense contracts mostly signed in 2009-2011. The arms supplies continued even after Armenian leaders strongly criticized them following Azerbaijan’s April 2016 offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, the Russians shipped six heavy artillery systems to the Azerbaijani military last year. Late last month, a Russian cargo ship delivered a new batch of anti-tank missile systems to Baku’s Caspian Sea port. And earlier this week, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry announced that it has received hundreds of Russian thermobaric rockets for TOS-1A multiple-launch systems which it had purchased from Moscow earlier.
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the lucrative arms deals with Baku after holding talks with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in Moscow last August. Putin implied that oil-rich Azerbaijan could have bought offensive weapons from other nations. He also argued that Russia has long been providing substantial military aid to Armenia.
The Armenia army demonstrated new weapons recently acquired from Russia during a September 2016 military parade in Yerevan. Those included state-of-the-art Iskander ballistic missiles.
Russia has been Armenia’s principal supplier of weapons and ammunition owing to the military alliance between the two nations. Yerevan has received Russian weapons at discounted prices or even for free.