Defense Minister Praises Army’s Readiness

GYUMRI (Noyan Tapan)–Armenian Minister of Defense Serge Sargsian said on May 5 in Gyumri that nothing extraordinary happens in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia.

He said the situation is normal there–there is no tension–and problems are almost similar as in other regions of Armenia and Georgia.

"We have no ethnic problems. The Javakhk population feels confident and they know very well that Armenia exists and stands behind them. Nobody can offend them." the minister stressed.

Defense Minister–National Security Council Secretary Sargsian also told reporters in Gyumri that if there are a considerable number of illegally residing Armenian citizens in Russia’s Krasnodar territory–either they must be withdrawn in a civilized manner or the fact of their residence must be legalized.

"Maybe I have no right to say so–but I will say that I am for the withdrawal of those who illegally reside in Russia or other countries of the world. Let all the Armenia’s of the world who feel bad out there come and live in Armenia," the minister emphasized.

The latest anti-Armenian events in the Krasnodar territory–in the minister’s opinion–should not be taken as an occasion for serious concern–though the defilement of Armenian graves–he stressed–is serious vandalism.

"I am not surprised at this or that statement of any Azeri statesman," Minister Sargsian said–answering the question of reporters if he was concerned over the statement of a number of Azeri high-ranking officials–according to which–Azerbaijan is not satisfied with this situation of "neither war–nor peace" any longer.

"But the problem–of course–exists," the minister said–emphasizing that problems will exist without a lasting resolution to the 14-year-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–the peace talks for which are stalled.

Sargsian said that it is not the fear of the minister that is important–but the fact that "our army is efficient today and is ready to defend the borders of the country and the security of the people."

In other military news–President Robert Kocharian signed a decree on awarding orders and medals on the occasion of the formation of the Defense Army and the liberation of Shushi.

A second-degree combat cross was awarded to Commander of the "Arabo" detachment Manvel Yeghiazarian.

The "Medal of Courage" was awarded to 28 people and the " Combat Services" medal to 10–including commanders–freedom-fighters and members of the "Yerkrapah" Union of Volunteers.

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