YEREVAN (Armenpress)–In an exclusive interview with the daily Azg newspaper–Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian said the main achievement of the last two years that he can be proud of is the continuous strengthening of the Armenian Armed forces.
"Beginning from 1994 when cease fire was established in the Karabakh conflict zone–and when we became able to embark on building our army in peaceful conditions–its combat readiness has been constantly improving," he said.
"I think we have also managed to raise the discipline regarding the decrease in the number of peace-time incidents–especially the number of peace-time deaths," Sarkisian said.
In response to a question that if a launching a terrorist campaign against Armenia’s neighbors Iran and Iraq–which have been accused of harboring and supporting international terrorism–would result in catastrophic consequences for the region–Sarkisian said that Armenia does not have complete information to give an assessment of such a possibility.
"But I am sure that by undertaking anti-terrorist operations–the US is pursuing the policy that would rule out catastrophes in future," added the defense minister of Armenia.
Commenting on President Kocharian’s recent announcement that Karabakh will never be part of Azerbaijan again–Sarkisian said that it does not mean that Armenia is not ready to resolve the conflict through compromises.
"We are prepared for them–but not at the cost of Karabakh’s independence. If Karabakh is not part of Armenia or independent–its security would be seriously endangered and it would be very desirable to reach a peace deal on this basis–but peace in turn has its own cost and for that we are ready to return some of the territories," he said.
Sarkisian also said that ideas and talk which supposed giving a transit corridor to Turkey across Armenian region of Meghri in return for Karabakh resolution have been turned down.
"Regarding communications lines–it appears that if we are not at war with a country–we must provide such opportunities–otherwise we shall be banned from similar opportunities–but in this case it largely depends on Turkey–because of its non-constructive policy on this issue. The Council of Europe is said to be keen on discussing this issue," he said–but added that the reopening of the Kars-Gumri railway and other communications routes is contingent on Turkey.
"Now the only railway linking Armenia with other countries goes across Georgia and any possible destabilization there would effect Armenia and it would be very good to have other communication routes," he said–adding that he was very positive about prospects for constructing Iran-Armenia gas pipeline.
"To the best of my knowledge–President Kocharian is scheduled to meet with the president of Turkmen’stan to talk over the terms of Turkmen gas deliveries through the pipeline–which we see as an issue of ensuring Armenia’s security."