Armenia Does Not Intend to Join NATO Says Deputy Minister

YEREVAN–Armenia does not intend to join NATO but would like to continue to participate in the Alliance’s programs which aim to strengthen national security from both political and military standpoints–Deputy Minister of Defense Vahan Shirkhanyan said in an interview published in the Haiastani Hanrapetutiun daily Thursday.

Shirkhanyan addressed concerns that Armenia’s participation in the NATO 50th anniversary summit Washington could hinder Armenia-Russian relations.

"Our participation in the summit could not have a negative impact on Armenia-Russia relations–since our cooperation is a strategic one and is deep rooted based on numerous legal treatises," said Shirkhanyan.

The deputy defense minister also explained Azerbaijan’s attempts to thwart Armenia’s credibility during the Washington Summit last month–saying that Azerbaijan directly pleaded with leaders to accelerate Azerbaijan’s membership in NATO

Shirkhanyan added that Azerbaijan attempted to present matters related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from a completely subjective perspective–by complaining about Armenia. However–the defense minister added–President Kocharian’s speech at the summit outlined the realities of the conflict–garnering support from the attendees.

"Today the war has changed and Azerbaijan is actively fighting the war. At every juncture Azerbaijan depicts Armenia as an invader nation and cries about its so-called one million refugees. Wherever Armenia is not represented–Azerbaijan’s announcemen’s are accepted," explained Shirkhanyan.

The deputy minister pointed out the importance of Armenia’s participation in NATO-initiated projects–citing the Partnership for Peace program as one of the key aspects of NATO.

Shirkhanyan also told the newspaper–that the Turkish defense minister has expressed concern over the recognition issue of the Armenian Genocide.

"In Washington–Turkey–once again–was convinced that Armenia is determined in its pursuit of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide," stressed Shirkhanyan.

He said that an arrangement was made during his recent meetings in the Pentagon that US Under-Secretary of Defense Edward Warner would visit Armenia in the near future.

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