Starovoydova Says Arms Sales Allegation Tied to Karabakh

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–At last Wednesday’s closed-door session of the Russian State Duma–member of Parliament Galina Starovoydova made a statement–concerning the question of Russian arms supplies to Armenia.

At the beginning of her speech Starovoydova voiced regret over the fact that experts on CIS affairs and geopolitics had not prepared an appropriate report. She stressed that General Lev Rokhlin often visited Azerbaijan–however rejected a recent invitation and refused to visit Armenia.

Perhaps–this account for the one-sidedness of his assessmen’s and cited facts–said Starovoydova.

Starovoydova suggested viewing the situation from the broad state position. According to her–Russia has strategic interests in the Transcaucasus. The Russian Empire–the former Soviet Union and today’s democratic Russia have had and continue to have the same interests in that region–she said. Certain Transcaucasian countries are Russia’s allies and Russia concluded a defense agreement with them. Russia has closer relations with Armenia and Georgia.

This accounts for the presence of Russia’s military bases and joint border guarding in that region. Starovoydova said this was especially important for Russia as Turkey–an active member of NATO–has deployed its third army in the vicinity of CIS borders and is holding training–and hatching a number of hostile plans against Russia. In particular–Turkey is preparing to quit the Montreux Navigation and Bosphorus and Dardanelles Convention of 1936–which is rather important for Russia in the matter of SS-300 missiles supplies to Cyprus and oil transportation.

Currently Turkey is also planning to conduct military exercises jointly with the Ukrainian fleet near Sevastopol (Donuzlav base). Turkey has close relations with Azerbaijan–where Turkish supplies and instructors are used to train the personnel.

Starovoydova stressed that Turkey assisted Chechens in the Russia-Chechen stand-off. Under Turkey’s pressure Azerbaijan does not allow Russia to use a radio-locating radar near Mingechaur (a similar radar is located in Skrunda–Latvia)–although it was built with Russian funds. Azerbaijan does not even allow his radar to be rented.

The parliamentarian suggested that the fuss which General Rokhlin made over the arms supplies to Armenia was triggered by lobbyists in connection with the current Karabakh negotiations in Moscow.

Starovoydova stressed it was rather difficult to hold a close session because the very morning of the session ambassadors of China and Turkey–as well as diplomats from other countries–who display vivid interest in the subject of discussions were present in the chambers.

Today–Russia is assisting in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the Bishkek Resolutions. The cease-fire in the conflict zone has been maintained for three years–although apparently–certain individuals in the State Duma oppose this process–said the Duma member.

Starovoydova reported that the Azeri side had repeatedly raised the problem of the so-called "arms sales to Armenia." After a rather emotional speech made by Rokhlin at a recent summit of CIS presidents and prime ministers–the Russian government received a letter of protest from the Azeri foreign ministry.

However–CIS heads of states refused to put the problem on the agenda as far as the probe into the facts of arms supplies to Armenia is under way and nobody wanted to discuss this delicate and disputable problem unless the outcome of the probe was known.

According to Starovoydova–Rokhlin disagrees with the course of investigation and for some reason is unwilling to wait for its outcome. Starovoydova also said that recently a delegation of the Armenian parliament led by deputy speaker Ara Sahakian visited Russia and met with Russian Parliament chairman Gennady Seleznev. The delegation as well as Armenia’s Ambassador to Russia have repeatedly stated that there has been no arms sales to Armenia.

Starovoydova noted that–in fact–Russia’supplied arms to the Transcaucasian region. According to a formulation of the Armenian side–with which one couldn’t but agree–the point is in re-deployment of the military vehicles from certain Russian regions to Russia’s military bases–which was carried out in fringes of Russia’s international and bilateral obligations. In other words–this is Russia’s domestic affair.

Over the last period Russia has supplied 84 T-72 tanks and 50 combat carriers (Starovoydova stressed here that Rokhlin had mistaken as there is only one base in Armenia located in Yerevan and Giumri–but not two as Rokhlin alleged). Moreover–those vehicles were needed to guard borders.

Starovoydova also reported that in recent times there had been mass arms supplies to Azerbaijan with which Russia did not sign the agreement on defense as with Armenia. The member of parliament read out data extracted from the statemen’s of the Armenian foreign ministry issued on February 28.

She said she was puzzled why Rokhlin concealed the above data as he was well aware of them. She presumed that Rokhlin had a specific interest in creating an one-sided perception of the issue. She demanded that such problems be not discussed without experts and diplomats since lobbying the interests of one side may bring about worsening of relations and a new bloody episode in the Karabakh conflict.

Many of members of parliament attending the session were willing to begin discussions and ask questions–however–Seleznev called deputies to follow time limits and take into consideration the information provided by Starovoydova.

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