Much to Be Done for US Armenia Military Cooperation Says Kocharian

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"US-Armenia cooperation in the military real–is at a low level and much has to be done in this sense," President Robert Kocharian said when meeting with a US military delegation on Tuesday. In the general context of bilateral relations he stressed the importance of military cooperation.

Deputy Commander of the US Forces in Europe Admiral Charles Abbot–who headed the delegation–presented his proposals regarding possible avenues of cooperation. Abbot is the Deputy Commander of the US Forces in Europe; he is the Deputy to the Commander-in-Chief of the NATO Allied Force in Europe–General Wesley Clark.

The sides exchanged views on the creation of a security system in the region. Quite dynamic and active political and economic processes are taking place in the region–which–indeed–create favorable preconditions for the system–said Kocharian–adding that the process must begin immediately.

Kocharian hailed recent US initiatives aimed at improving US-Iran relations–which he deemed would be important in establishing peace and stability in the region.

Earlier–Abbot met with Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian and Defense Minister Vagharshak Haroutiunian.

The US delegation’s visit aimed at holding preliminary discussions on the prospects of military cooperation between Armenia and the United States–in such areas as mine clearing and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction–the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. The sides will discuss a number of specific programs in May.

During the meeting Abbot proposed training for army engineers in the South Caucasus countries to be conducted in Georgia in October. The initiative was the result of last April’s meeting of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with the leaders of the three South Caucasus republics–which was held in the framework of the NATO Summit in Washington. During that meeting the American side expressed its readiness to render assistance to the sides in humanitarian mine clearing.

The US military delegation left for Baku on Tuesday in continuation of its regional tour. Before coming to Armenia the delegation visited Tbilisi.

In a briefing at Zvartnots Airport that preceded the delegation’s departure–US Ambassador to Armenia Michael Lemmon introduced Admiral Abbot to the media–saying that it was his [Abbot’s] first visit to the region.

Abbot said that during their meetings with Armenian officials they agreed on further relation. While there were no concrete agreemen’s on bilateral cooperation–the admiral announced that further steps were expected to be taken within this year.

Asked if Armenia’s strategic partnership with Russia could harm to the country’s military cooperation with the US–Abbot said–"I think that Armenia has a lot of friends–and both the US and Russia are among these friends." The Admiral said the establishment of stability and security in the region is only possible through developing cooperation between the region’s nations and on condition that this cooperation is supported by other countries.

In response to questions–Chief of the General Staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Michael Haroutiunian said that the main objective of the US military’s visit was to study the situation in the Caucasus countries.

Commenting on Armenia-NATO cooperation–Haroutiunian said that Armenia’s participation in NATO programs would still be limited to cooperation under the Partnership for Peace Program. "NATO has certain interests in the region–including in Armenia–but further cooperation is a matter of time; let’s wait and see," said Haroutiunian.

A delegation of the US Interdepartmental Commission for Mine Clearing will be in Yerevan from March 24 to 31 to make a preliminary assessment of US-Armenian cooperation in mine clearing.

The visit will be undertaken to study the details connected with the organization of follow-up training for Armenian army engineers and also to discuss the forms of providing Armenia with technical support and expertise in demining activities.

Meanwhile–a delegation of the South-Eastern Command of NATO led by Deputy Commander Major-General Zannie Smith arrived in Armenia on Tuesday.

Smith will met with Chief of the General Staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces Lieutenant-General M. Haroutiunian and heads of other departmen’s concerned.

The NATO officials have undertaken their visit to discuss tasks of cooperation with Armenia under the Partnership for Peace Program. They will also address regional problems of mutual interest.

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