Peace Before Arms Says Bulgaria’s Defense Minister

YEREVAN (RFE/RL-YERKIR)–In meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Svinarov–Armenia’s Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian on Thursday conveyed Armenia’s interest to purchase weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria. Svinarov–however–on the second day of his official trip to Yerevan stressed that though Bulgaria is ready to accommodate the request–it would be prudent to wait until a resolution of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict is found.

"We hope that our cooperation in defense and other areas will become more extensive after a solution to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict," Svinarov told a joint news conference. "Once the political and international situation normalizes–Bulgaria will be able to provide various types of weapons and ammunition to Armenia."

Sarkisian–however–insisted that Yerevan needs to strengthen its armed forces now so that it can fend off a possible military assault by Azerbaijan. "We can really acquire what we need from Bulgaria at the moment without awaiting a settlement of the Karabagh problem–because our army will not quite need that after it," he said.

Svinarov in the meantime assured that Bulgaria would do its best to contribute to the peaceful regulation of the Karabagh conflict when it assumes the OSCE presidency in 2004.

The two defense ministers met reporters after signing a plan of joint activities for 2004–and agreed that participation in NATO’s "Partnership for Peace" program is a good opportunity to exchange military experience. They also discussed regional cooperation under TRASECA that aims to develop the transportation corridor between Europe-Caucasus-Asia–and within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.

Svinarov also met with President Robert Kocharian who visited Bulgaria last month aiming to develop commercial ties with the country.


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