Senior NATO Official Arrives in Yerevan

YEREVAN (combined sources)–Admiral Guido Venturoni–chairman of the NATO Military Committee–arrived in Armenia March 8 on a two-day visit to the country.

"Armenia is a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and I have come here to get acquainted with the country’s current state and discuss issues of cooperation," Venturoni told reporters upon his arrival at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport. Venturoni said he had paid visits to Azerbaijan and Georgia last year–adding that NATO would like to see cooperation grow between all the countries of the region.

Issues related to Armenia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program were discussed during Defense Minister Serge Sargsian’s meeting with Admiral Venturoni. From the Armenian side the meeting was attended by Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Mikael Haroutiunian and Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Margarian. Sargsian described the Program as an integral component in ensuring Armenia’s national security–and gave assurances that Armenia’s armed forces would continue their participation in the Program. The sides exchanged views on problems of regional security and prospects of Armenia-NATO relations.

President Robert Kocharian held a meeting March 9 with Admiral Venturoni. The sides discussed a wide range of issues related to Armenia-NATO cooperation. President Kocharian reaffirmed Armenia’s willingness to develop cooperation with NATO–as well as intensify its participation in the "Partnership for Peace" program. He expressed confidence that the visit of NATO high-ranking officials to Armenia and the ongoing negotiations will be a new step toward developing partnership with this organization.

Speaking on Armenian-Russian military cooperation–Kocharian gave assurances that Russian military presence in Armenia is of a balancing nature and is necessary for maintaining stability in the region.

Later that day–Venturoni was received by Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–who said Armenia intends to develop its partnership with NATO–and realizes the importance of developing bilateral relations with NATO member-states. Margarian commended NATO for its neutral policy toward the Karabakh conflict. He also pointed out that military and political relations between Russia and Armenia do not pose a danger to neighboring states and is not an obstacle to establishment of cooperation between Armenia and NATO member-states.

The Admiral will also visit the headquarters of the Armenian Church in Echmiadzin to meet with Catholicos Karekin II.

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