YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia and China have agreed to continue their mostly unpublicized defense cooperation during talks held in Yerevan between senior military officials from the two countries.
A delegation of the Chinese Defense Ministry led by Major-General Xi Gowei met with Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and other senior Armenian officials during a three-day visit that ended on Sunday.
A statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said that the two sides signed an “agreement on bilateral military and military-technical cooperation.” It gave no details of that agreement.
The statement instead quoted Ohanian as praising the deal and saying that the development of Chinese-Armenian military ties has “promising prospects.” His first deputy, Davit Ohanian, called for “the full use of the existing potential in defense cooperation.”
The Chinese officials also held separate meetings with the heads of the Armenian Defense Ministry’s departments on defense policy and personnel and military training. “Agreements were reached on developing cooperation in military education, rear supplies, the military-technical and other spheres,” the ministry statement said without elaborating.
Defense links between the two countries date back to the late 1990s. Armenia reportedly received at the time several batteries of Chinese WM-80 multiple-launch rocket systems that have a firing range of up to 80 kilometers. Their delivery prompted protests from Azerbaijan.
China has also trained several dozen Armenian officers at its military academies. Meeting with a visiting Chinese army general in 2004, then Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian thanked Beijing for its “assistance” provided to the Armenian armed forces.
Sarkisian continued to emphasize China’s importance for Armenia after becoming president in 2008. “Armenia is interested in deepening relations with China,” he told Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Yerevan in February last year.
Yang similarly expressed his country’s readiness to expand bilateral ties in all areas of mutual interest. China regards Armenia as a “trustworthy and reliable friend,” he said.