Armenia Ready for Close Cooperation with NATO Says Defense Minister

YEREVAN (Armenpress/NATO Update)–Commenting on meetings with NATO Secretary General Lord Robinson’s–Armenia’s Defense Minister Serge Sarkissian said that development of cooperation between Armenia and the Alliance were discussed and existing bilateral relations are satisfactory with Armenia is ready to enlarge collaboration with NATO.

Responding to whether he foresees Georgia entering NATO–the minister said "Georgia itself decides how to provide its security. I can only say that there is no such a goal in Armenia’s foreign policy." He also dismissed a NATO role in the Nagorno Karabagh conflict regulation process.

Armenia maintains close military ties with Russia and unlike its neighbors Georgia and Azerbaijan doesn’t want to become a member of NATO.

Reporting on his two day visit to the region–Robertson maintained that NATO remains committed to stability in the Caucasus–but it is up to the countries in the region to find peaceful solutions to existing conflicts.

The Secretary General traveled to Georgia and Armenia on 14 and 15 May and Azerbaijan on 15 May. He met with the Heads of State and top officials–addressed parliamentarians and the public.

Lord Robertson explained how NATO is transforming to deal with today’s new security threats and how strengthening its partnerships with non-members is a key aspect of this transformation.

"The NATO that emerged from the Prague Summit is a profoundly transformed NATO. But transformation cannot apply only to NATO itself," he said in an address to the Azeri Parliament–"Our Partnership–too–must transform–to be relevant and effective in the 21st century."

Individual programs–tailored to the specific needs of each country and a joint plan of action against terrorism are two key aspects of this transformation. The Alliance will also place a greater emphasis on promoting regional cooperation.

But this will not include playing a leading role in facilitating the peace processes in the region. "That responsibility rests first and foremost with the parties of the region themselves," said Lord Robertson in Tbilisi–"The first answers to the simmering conflicts in the Caucasus must lie here–not with outside actors."

In addition to his meetings–in Baku the Secretary General Lord Robertson inaugurated a new station of NATO’s Virtual Silk Highway network. The Virtual Silk Highway–a project launched by the NATO Science Committee in 2002–will considerably improve the Internet connection of the academic communities of the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia.

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