MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — Military authorities in Yerevan and Moscow plan to sign an agreement on the establishment of a combined group of forces, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov announced in the Armenian capital on Tuesday following a meeting between the two countries’ defense chiefs.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu arrived in Yerevan to attend a regular meeting of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization’s defense chiefs on August 16 after paying a two-day visit to Azerbaijan where he reportedly discussed issues of military and military-technical cooperation with Baku as well as the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
In Yerevan Shoygu also reportedly discussed issues of military and military-technical cooperation with Armenia as well as “current issues of global and regional security.”
According to the press service of the Armenian Ministry of Defense, “the two ministers stressed the high level of interaction of their agencies and determined further ways of cooperation.”
The sides also reportedly dwelled on the “large-scale humanitarian operation of the Armed Forces of Russia in Syria.”
“Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian expressed support and solidarity with the humanitarian efforts of the Russian Federation on providing aid to the Syrian people,” the report said.
“As a result of the meeting the defense ministers signed an agreement between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of identification and evaluation of radiation, chemical and biological conditions in the interest of the Combined Group of Troops (Forces) of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
Later Russia’s Tass news agency quoted Antonov as saying that preparations for the signing of the agreement on the establishment of the combined group of forces was in its final stages. He said that “the implementation of the agreement will make it possible to clearly regulate joint activities in this sphere and provide the group with necessary information in time.”
The senior Russian defense official did not present other details.
In particular, it remains unclear whether a new group will be created and, if so, then what will happen to the existing group of Armenian-Russian forces, or whether simply the legal aspects of the operations of the existing group and command mechanisms will be made more specific under the terms of the new agreement. An Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson promised to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) to answer these questions later on.
According to the information provided by Armenia’s Ministry of Defense, still in September 2000 in Sochi an agreement was signed between Armenia and Russia on the joint use of forces, on the basis of which the combined group of troops (forces) was established. According to the document, the group’s goal is to solve common defense tasks of Armenia and Russia under a joint command. The group consists of units of the armed forces of Armenia and Russia, is located in Armenia and is commanded by the representative of the Armenian Armed Forces, Major-General Andranik Makarian, who was appointed to the position under President Serzh Sargsyan’s decree last month.