Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov referred to Armenian biological laboratories donated by the United States when he stressed the need to prevent “foreign” military presence in Armenia, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.
Lavrov told a Russian radio station on Monday that Moscow and Yerevan are close to signing an agreement that will bar third countries from deploying military personnel in Armenia. He spoke in the context of American bio labs provided to several ex-Soviet states in recent years.
Armenia has received five such facilities from the U.S. to boost food safety and other sanitary controls on its territory. Earlier this year, it allowed Russian officials to inspect them after Moscow claimed that Washington seems to be running a clandestine biological weapons lab in neighboring Georgia.
The Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Sergey Kopyrkin, said the Russian and Armenian sides are now engaged in a “constructive dialogue” on the work of the labs.
“I don’t exclude that at some point we will reach an overall mutual understanding and agreement,” he told a news conference. “I can’t tell yet what form that agreement could take but any [Russian] ban or diktat is out of question.”
“There is a dialogue and desire to achieve mutual understanding, including on the transparency of the biological laboratories and the presence or non-presence of foreign military personnel in those labs,” Kopyrkin added in reference to Lavrov’s remarks.
Commenting on the remarks, the Armenian Foreign Ministry likewise insisted that Lavrov spoke about the bio labs.
“The labs belong to Armenia and have a civilian character,” stressed the ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian. “As far as Armenia is concerned, there is no question of military presence there.”