YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian assured a senior Georgian diplomat on Tuesday that Russia did not and will not use Armenian territory for its ongoing military operations in Georgia.
Armenia maintains close defense links with Russia and hosts a Russian military base numbering several thousand soldiers and a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan flatly denied late last week Azerbaijani and Georgian media claims that some of the Russian warplanes involved in bomb raids on Georgia flew in from Armenian military airfields. A ministry spokesman rejected the allegations as an Azerbaijani “provocation” designed to damage Georgian-Armenian relations. He argued that the Russian military is not using MiG-29s in the air strikes.
Georgia’s ambassador to Armenia, Revaz Gachechiladze, commented on the allegations at a meeting with Ohanian. A statement by the Defense Ministry quoted Gachechiladze as stating that the Russian military aircraft stationed in Armenia has not been involved in the Russian campaign.
“For his part, Ohanian assured the ambassador that Armenia’s territory will not be used as a military launch pad for hostilities against Georgia, expressing hope that ways will be found to normalize the situation in Georgia,” the statement said. Ohanian also offered his sympathy for “innocent victims” of the nearly week-long fighting, it added.
The statement claimed that Gachechiladze requested the meeting in order to introduce Georgia’s new military attach? in Yerevan, Colonel Murtaz Gujejiani, to the Armenian defense chief.
Armenia is treading carefully on the Russian-Georgian conflict, mindful of the two countries’ importance for its national security. The Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed on Friday serious concern about the outbreak of fighting in South Ossetia but avoided blaming any of the parties for the worst regional crisis since the early 1990s. Official Yerevan has so far not reacted on Russian forces’ subsequent advance deep into Georgian territory, which has been condemned by the United States and other Western powers.
The Armenian government also refuted on Tuesday other media reports saying that it allowed a planeload of U.S. military instructors bound for Georgia to land in Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport. Deputy Foreign Minister Gegham Gharibjanian said special flights to Zvartnots have been carried out only by planes that were sent by some European governmen’s to collect their citizens evacuated from Georgia.