Armen Grigorian, the secretary of the Security Council, said it will be tasked with “collecting information about the security situation around Armenia.”
“This agency will not carry out operations,” Grigorian told the parliament before it passed a relevant government bill in the first reading. “Operations will be carried out by other services.”
Armenia already has intelligence services operating within its National Sercurity Service (NSS) and military. Under the government bill, the NSS division will be fully replaced by the new Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS) within three years.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian indicated that this transition period could be longer when he met with senior NSS officials later in the day. He said the NSS’s Intelligence Department will continue to operate “at least until we are sure that the FIS has developed to the point where it can carry out those functions.”
Opposition lawmakers voted against the bill, saying that the government failed to substantiate the need for the creation of the new agency that will be directly subordinate to the prime minister.
“Let’s be frank,” said Gegham Manukian of the opposition Hayastan bloc. “Given the size of its population, Armenia does not have the potential to create an intelligence service from scratch. This will only weaken the existing structures within the NSS and the Defense Ministry.”
Manukian said that the measure may be part of Pashinian’s plans to change Armenia’s foreign and security policy “vector.”
Another opposition deputy, Tigran Abrahamian, suggested that Pashinian does not trust the NSS leadership and wants to weaken and even “break up” the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB.
During the meeting with the NSS personnel, Pashinian praised the security service, calling it “one of the most important pillars of our state.” He also said that the NSS must now concentrate on counterintelligence, counterterrorism and protection of the “constitutional order.”